Saudi Arabia blocks plane with Iranian pilgrims from its airspace as tensions rise over Yemen

Saudi Arabian aviation authorities say they prevented an Iranian plane carrying 260 religious pilgrims from entering the kingdom's airspace because the aircraft lacked appropriate permissions.

The General Authority of Civil Aviation announced the move in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency on Thursday. The pilgrims had hoped to arrive in the kingdom on Wednesday afternoon to perform the minor umrah pilgrimage.

Tensions are high between Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia and its Shiite rival Iran. A Saudi-led coalition is carrying out airstrikes in Yemen against rebels known as Houthis, who come from a Shiite sect.

Critics see the Houthis as tools of Iran, but both the Islamic Republic and the rebels deny any direct military assistance from Tehran.