Yemen rebels fired missiles at the UAE and Saudi Arabia, with coalition forces hitting back by blowing up the insurgents’ launchpad as a sharp escalation of hostilities entered a second week on January 24.
Witnesses saw bright flashes arcing over the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi in the early hours the morning of January 24 as two ballistic missiles were intercepted, scattering debris.
Nobody was hurt in the attack, which came a week after the Iran-backed Huthi rebels killed three people in a drone and missile assault on the city, triggering a volley of deadly air strikes on Yemen.
Separately, missiles were fired on Saudi Arabia in southern regions bordering Yemen, with two people wounded in Jazan, and another missile intercepted over Dhahran al-Janub.
The UAE said an F16 fighter jet destroyed a Huthi missile launcher in Al-Jawf in northern Yemen at 4:10 am (0110 GMT), “immediately after it launched two ballistic missiles at Abu Dhabi”.
It released a black-and-white video of the attack, showing an explosion followed by a large fire that sent up plumes of thick smoke.
The UAE, part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Huthis, is “ready to deal with any threats” and was “taking all necessary measures to protect the state from all attacks”, the defence ministry said.
The seven-year conflict, which has killed more than 150,000 and displaced millions, according to the UN, entered a dangerous new phase over the past week.
Coalition air strikes on the Yemeni capital Sanaa and the Red Sea port city of Hodeida left at least 17 dead and knocked out the struggling country’s internet.
At least 70 were also killed and hundreds injured in an attack on a prison, although the coalition denied responsibility.
After January 24’s attack, the rebels threatened to ramp up their targeting of UAE, and repeated their warning for foreign companies to leave the oil, business, transport and tourism hub.
“We are ready to expand the operation during the next phase and confront escalation with escalation,” rebel military spokesman Yahya Saree said in a televised statement.
He said the Huthis targeted Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra airbase – which hosts Emirati, US and French forces – as well as “vital and important” locations in the Dubai area. The UAE did not report an attack on Dubai.
While the rebels have frequently attacked Saudi Arabia, the UAE is a new front in a conflict that also threatens the busy Red Sea shipping route.
Earlier this month, after being driven back by UAE-trained forces in a key province in Yemen, the Huthis hijacked a UAE-flagged ship in the Red Sea, saying it was carrying weapons.
But last week’s Abu Dhabi attack – the first deadly assault on UAE soil acknowledged by the Emiratis and claimed by the Huthis – was a shock for the UAE, usually an oasis of calm in the volatile region.
Abu Dhabi lies about 1,500km east of Yemen’s rebel-held capital Sanaa.