Saudi video shows plane firing at Qatari passenger jet
'Overt threat' to fellow Arab nation sparks outrage as Gulf crisis enters third month
Saudi Arabia has released a video showing how its military would shoot down a Qatar Airways passenger jet if the national carrier entered Saudi airspace in the latest twist in the deepening Gulf crisis.
In what The Independent describes as an "apparent overt threat to the fellow Arab nation", the two-minute video shows a Russian-made Su-30 warplane shooting down a Qatari Airbus A320.
"International law permits states to shoot down any aircraft that violates a state's airspace, classing it as a legitimate target, especially if flying over a military area," the video voiceover says.
The video, aired by the Saudi-owned television channel Al Arabiya, was released days before Saudi Arabia said it would open its land border to Qatari pilgrims attending the annual Hajj pilgrimage, but ordered Saudi private planes to ferry those requiring a flight to Mecca.
"It's shocking that a news channel would think it's acceptable to create and illustrate a passenger airline aircraft being blown out of the sky," air analyst Alex Macheras told the Daily Mail.
Some took to Twitter to point out the irony of Saudi Arabia threatening to blow up a civilian jet while simultaneously ostracising Qatar for its alleged links to terrorism. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar in June over its alleged support of Islamist extremist groups and terrorist funding.
The Washington Post observes that while Saudi Arabia and the UAE have punished Qatar with economic sanctions over its alleged terrorism ties, including Qatar's supposed involvement in 9/11, 19 of the World Trade Center attackers were from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
US intervenes as Qatar crisis deepens
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson flies into Kuwait today to mediate in an escalating crisis in Qatar, home to the largest US military base in the region.
He will meet senior Kuwaiti officials attempting to broker a deal between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and its neighbours. UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson visited on Saturday and met with leaders from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait. He told reporters that "progress can be made" and ruled out the possibility of military escalation.
Despite the diplomatic efforts, it has been more than a month since the row erupted and "hopes of a swift resolution seem as remote as a summer downpour in the desert," says Agence France-Presse.
The stand-off has "badly damaged ties between several key American partners and threatens to hinder counter terrorism efforts", the Associated Press reports.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and travel ties with Qatar last month, accusing it of supporting terrorism. Doha strongly denies the claims and rejected a 13-point ultimatum as an affront to its sovereignty.
There has been much speculation the Saudi-led bloc will seek to push Qatar out of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) either through suspension or expulsion, says AFP news agency.
Sheikh Abdullah Bin Saoud al-Thani, governor of Qatar's central bank. told CNBC the country has $340bn (£264bn) in reserves, which could help it weather the situation.
Qatar said yesterday it would pursue compensation for damages stemming from the blockade, which could run into billions of dollars, The Guardian says.
Washington warned the crisis could escalate, which could jeopardise counter-terrorism efforts in the region. Two of the five countries in the dispute are home to major US military bases: Bahrain hosts the Navy's Fifth Fleet and Qatar is home to the Al-Udeid Air Base, the hub for the US-led anti-ISIS coalition operations in Iraq and Syria.
"We've become increasingly concerned that that dispute is at an impasse at this point," a spokesman for the US State Department said last week. "We believe that this could potentially drag on for weeks. It could drag on for months. It could possibly even intensify."