Saudi coalition strikes Houthis after drone attack on UAE

Houthi targets in Sana'a were hit by Saudi-led coalition after a drone attack targeted Abu Dhabi.

 Rescuers remove debris at the site of Saudi-led air strikes in Sanaa, Yemen, January 18, 2022.  (photo credit: REUTERS/KHALED ABDULLAH)
Rescuers remove debris at the site of Saudi-led air strikes in Sanaa, Yemen, January 18, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/KHALED ABDULLAH)

The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen targeted a number of sites belonging to the movement in Sana'a on Monday evening, after three people were killed and six others were injured in a drone attack by the Houthis on Abu Dhabi.

The coalition stated that it targeted "terrorist leaders" north of Sanaa on Monday evening, adding that "the operational situation requires continued strikes in response to the threat," according to the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

The coalition announced that a "comprehensive deterrence operation" would be carried out to neutralize the Houthi threat, in response to the attack on the UAE and Saudi Arabia. It added that F-15 and F-16 fighter jets were preparing for joint operations, with terrorist leaders among the operation's priorities.

The coalition added that F-15's struck two ballistic missile launchers used in the Houthi attack on Monday. "Hostile attacks on civilians in the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] and the UAE will be held accountable," said the coalition.

A total of 12 people were killed, including women and children, in the airstrike against Sana'a, according to reports by Al Masirah, a TV channel affiliated with the Houthis.

Turki Al-Maliki, the spokesman for the Saudi coalition, stated that the attacks on the UAE and Saudi Arabia were "war crimes" and that the Houthis must be held accountable.

The spokesman added that "this escalation and hostile behavior of the Iranian-backed terrorist Houthi militia confirms the threat of this terrorist militia and its undermining of regional and international security." He stressed that the coalition would take the "necessary operational measures to deter these hostile behaviors."

Three fuel tankers exploded in Abu Dhabi's Musaffah industrial area near storage facilities of oil firm ADNOC and a fire broke out at a storage facility at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

 Saudi Arabia's national flag is seen at the Khoba frontline border with Yemen (credit: REUTERS/FAHAD SHADEED) Saudi Arabia's national flag is seen at the Khoba frontline border with Yemen (credit: REUTERS/FAHAD SHADEED)

Earlier on Monday, the coalition intercepted eight drones that were launched from Yemen towards Saudi Arabia.

The United Arab Emirates has great influence on the Yemeni forces it armed and trained prior to scaling down its military presence in the region in 2019. The Houthis have repeatedly launched cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia and have in the past threatened to attack the UAE.

On Monday evening, the Houthis stated that they carried out "Operation Hurricane Yemen" in response to what it called "the escalation of the US-Saudi-Emirati aggression," according to Al Masirah.

The movement claimed that it targeted the airports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and an oil refinery in Musaffah, as well as "a number of important and sensitive Emirati sites and facilities," with five missiles and a number of drones.

The Houthis warned foreign companies, citizens and residents of the UAE to stay away from vital sites and facilities, adding that it "will not hesitate" to expand the bank of targets to further sites. The movement added that the UAE should be considered an "unsafe state" as long as the escalation continues.

The Houthis chief negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam warned the UAE to stop "tampering" in Yemen or "its hands and other hands who tamper will be cut off." Abdulsalam additionally referred to the UAE as a "small statelet serving the US and Israeli enemy."

The Emirati Foreign Ministry warned that the Houthi attack would "not go unpunished," saying that the UAE reserves the right to respond.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan condemned the terrorist attack in Abu Dhabi in a statement on Monday evening, saying that the US would work with the UAE and international partners to hold the Houthis accountable. "Our commitment to the security of the UAE is unwavering and we stand beside our Emirati partners against all threats to their territory."

The attack on Abu Dhabi comes a little over a week after a UAE-flagged cargo vessel was seized by Houthi militants off the coast of the western Yemeni port of Hodeidah. The Houthis claimed the ship was carrying military equipment, while the Saudi-led coalition claimed it was carrying hospital equipment.

Iranian media claimed that a Houthi official had said that the ship was seized as a "warning to Israel."

In 2020, Abdullah Yahya al-Hakim, the head of the Houthis' Intelligence and Reconnaissance Authority, told the September 26 newspaper that the movement has a "bank of vital and important targets" in Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

Tamar Uriel-Beeri and Reuters contributed to this report.