Yemen’s Houthis fail in second missile attack on United Arab Emirates

  • The UAE says it has intercepted two ballistic missiles
  • Houthis tell investors UAE has ‘become insecure’
  • Yemen is widely viewed as a proxy Iran-Saudi war

DUBAI, Jan 24 (Reuters) – Yemen’s Houthi movement, which is allied with Iran, launched a missile attack on the United Arab Emirates on Monday, targeting a US military but US-built Patriot base interceptors, US and Emirati officials said.

The attack, which sent US troops into bunkers, was the second in a week on the UAE, the Gulf region’s tourism and trade hub. On January 17, the Houthis attacked a fuel depot in Abu Dhabi, killing three people.

The Houthis, who are fighting a Saudi-led military coalition that includes the United Arab Emirates, have said they intend to punish the Gulf state for supporting militias blocking their attempts to seize oil-producing regions in the United Arab Emirates conquer Yemen.

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A Houthi military spokesman said the group fired Zulfiqar ballistic missiles at al-Dhafra air base and other “sensitive targets”. He said it also launched drones towards Dubai.

“We advise foreign companies and investors in the UAE to leave the UAE as it has become insecure,” he said, adding that the group is ready “to meet escalation with escalation”.

The UAE’s foreign ministry, part of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), called the attack a “criminal escalation” and said it had the right to respond.

The US military said it fired multiple Patriot interceptor missiles at two incoming missiles, acknowledging simultaneous efforts by the UAE military.

“Joint efforts successfully prevented both missiles from hitting the base,” said a spokesman for US Central Command, which represents US forces in the Middle East.

Emirati Ambassador to Washington Yousef al Otaiba tweeted that close cooperation with the United States helped repel the attack, and the US State Department reiterated Washington’s commitment to strengthening the defenses of its Saudi and Emirati partners.

But US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the Houthi attacks on the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, as well as the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes in Yemen, represented a “disturbing escalation” in violence, and he again called for a ceasefire.

Price declined to say whether US President Joe Biden‘s administration would honor a request by the United Arab Emirates to put the Houthis back on a US list of foreign terrorist groups and re-impose financial sanctions on them. Biden said last week the application was under review.

But Price noted that the group was removed from the list last February over concerns the sanctions could result in cuts in humanitarian aid and commercial imports of food and other necessities into Houthi-controlled areas.

“We’re looking at the appropriate response,” he said.

Remnants of a ballistic missile intercepted in an industrial area are seen south of Dhahran, Saudi Arabia January 24, 2022. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS

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The Houthis have repeatedly carried out cross-border missile and drone strikes on Saudi Arabia, but by targeting the United Arab Emirates they have upped the ante in what is widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Airstrikes on Yemen, which the Saudi-led coalition says are aimed at crippling Houthi capabilities, killed at least 60 people in Saada province on Friday and about 20 people in the Houthi-held capital Sana’a on Tuesday.

The US embassy issued a rare security advisory for the UAE, urging its citizens to “maintain a high level of security awareness”.


“This is an absolute escalation and is changing regional dynamics,” said Karen Young, director of the Middle East Institute’s economic and energy program.

“The security of the GCC now has risk calculations that approximate what we know in other parts of the Middle East,” she said, citing potential risks to energy pipelines and manufacturing facilities, as well as civil aviation.

Dubai’s main stock index ended the day down almost 2%, while Abu Dhabi’s ended the day flat. Higher oil prices supported markets, analysts said.

The attacks have shaken some residents of Abu Dhabi.

“Overall I feel safe, but I don’t know how it’s going to escalate,” said 19-year-old American medical student Tahlia Rivera.

The United Arab Emirates released video of an F-16 fighter jet destroying a Houthi missile launcher in Yemen.

The Houthis said Monday they also attacked Saudi Arabia, which reported material damage from remnants of an intercepted missile in a southern industrial area.

On Sunday night, a rocket hit another southern region, injuring two foreigners.

The coalition intervened in March 2015 after the Houthis overthrew the Sana’a government. The group says it is fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression.

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Additional reporting from Lilian Wagdy, Lisa Barrington and Saeed Azhar, and Jonathan Landay and Phil Stewart in Washington; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Edited by Clarence Fernandez, Michael Perry, Kirsten Donovan, William Maclean, Kevin Liffey and Richard Chang

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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