Saudi Arabia hits back at Houthi rebels after UAE drone attack

14 persons dead in strike on Sana’a; the coalition also intercepted eight drones

January 18, 2022 05:21 pm | Updated 10:08 pm IST - Sanaa

Yemenis inspect the damage following overnight air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition targeting the Houthi rebel-held capital Sanaa, on January 18, 2022.

Yemenis inspect the damage following overnight air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition targeting the Houthi rebel-held capital Sanaa, on January 18, 2022.

An air strike killed about 14 persons in a building in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, as the Saudi-led coalition hit back after a deadly attack on Abu Dhabi that sent Gulf tensions soaring.

Residents were combing the rubble for survivors after the strikes levelled two houses in Sanaa, hours after the Houthi rebels claimed a drone and missile attack that killed three people in the Emirati capital.

Also read: What’s behind the Houthis’ UAE attacks?

"Eleven people were killed. The search is still going on for survivors in the rubble," said Akram al-Ahdal, a relative of some of the victims. A medical source confirmed the death toll.

The UAE, part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-backed rebels, had vowed a tough response to Monday's attack, the first deadly assault acknowledged inside its borders and claimed by the Yemeni insurgents.

The coalition launched fresh strikes "targeting Huthi camps and headquarters" in Sanaa on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia's state-owned Al-Ekhbariya TV tweeted.

Crude prices soared to seven-year highs partly fuelled by the attacks, which exploded fuel tanks near storage facilities of oil giant ADNOC, killing three. The Houthis later warned UAE residents to avoid "vital installations".

Also read: NIA gathering details on UAE oil tanker blasts

Yemen, whose near seven-year war has killed hundreds of thousands, occupies a strategic position on the Red Sea, a vital conduit for oil from the resource-rich Gulf.

After the attacks, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed agreed in a phone call to "jointly stand up to these acts of aggression", UAE state media said.

No end in sight

The rebel attack opened a new front in the Yemen war and further reduced hopes of any resolution to the conflict, which has displaced millions in what was already the Arabian peninsula's poorest country.

The United States pledged to hold the Houthis accountable, while Britain, France and the European Union also condemned the assault.

Also read: Yemen officials say Saudi airstrike kills 12 troops by mistake

"These attacks threaten the security of the United Arab Emirates and regional stability," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

The targeting of Abu Dhabi follows a surge in fighting in Yemen, including advances by the UAE-trained troops of the Giants Brigade, who drove the rebels out of Shabwa province.

The defeat dealt a blow to the Houthis' months-long campaign to capture neighbouring Marib, the government's last stronghold in the north.

Earlier this month, the Houthis hijacked the UAE-flagged Rwabee in the Red Sea, saying it was carrying military equipment — a claim disputed by the coalition and the UAE. The ship's 11 international crew are being held captive.

Yemen's civil war began in 2014 when the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa, prompting Saudi-led forces to intervene to prop up the government the following year.

The conflict has been a catastrophe for millions of its citizens who have fled their homes, with many on the brink of famine, in what the U.N. calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The U.N. has estimated the war killed 377,000 people by the end of 2021, both directly and indirectly through hunger and disease.

"There is no end in sight for the Yemen war," Elisabeth Kendall, a researcher at the University of Oxford's Pembroke College, told AFP .

"Rather, the conflict is escalating and new fronts are opening up, both domestically and now regionally."

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