Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthis claimed responsibility on Monday for a drone attack on the United Arab Emirates in which three people were killed and another six were injured.
Abu Dhabi police confirmed that three fuel tankers in the industrial Mussaffah area had exploded and that a fire had broken out at a construction site at Abu Dhabi International Airport.
The Houthis said the attacks came in retaliation for the UAE’s “recent escalation in Yemen” according to The Wall Street Journal. Nasr al-Din Amir, deputy chief of the Houthis’ ministry of information, also said that the rebels reportedly were “planning more attacks as part of the continuing operation.”
In addition, Saudi Arabia said it had neutralized three drones launched in its direction.
“Preliminary investigations suggest that the cause of the fires are small flying objects, possibly belonging to drones that fell in the two areas. Teams from the competent authorities have been dispatched and the fire is currently being put out,” Abu Dhabi police said in a statement.
According to Reuters, the military spokesman of Yemen’s Houthi movement said the group launched a military operation “deep in the UAE” and would announce details in the coming hours.
It is not the first time this month that Yemen’s Houthi rebels have attacked the UAE. On Jan. 3, Houthi forces hijacked a UAE cargo ship, the Rwabee, off the coast of Yemen in Hodeidah, Yemen’s main port. The ship had 11 crew from five different countries on board – seven of them from India.
UAE ambassador to the UN, Lana Nusseibeh, said the ship had been leased by a Saudi Arabian company and was carrying equipment for a field hospital. The Houthis claim that the ship was carrying military equipment. On Friday, the UN Security Council unanimously condemned the hijacking and called for its immediate release. The Houthis have rejected the request.
The Houthis threatened the UAE with attacks earlier this month with Mohammed al-Bakhiti, a spokesman for the Houthis, saying: “We advise the UAE not to continue to escalate, because then we will have to strike the Emirati’s depth, as we are in a state of war,” according to the Iranian Tasnim news agency.
Al-Bakhiti added that the UAE “had a tendency years ago to withdraw from its involvement in the aggression on Yemen, and we gave it this opportunity and froze targeting the depth of Emirates, but now it has returned to escalation.”
Yemen has found itself in a years-long civil war between Iranian-backed Houthis and Saudi-backed government forces. The United Arab Emirates has for years actively supported Saudi Arabia’s war efforts in the country as part of the Arab coalition, but the UAE reduced its military operations there in 2019. In 2020, at an official ceremony, the UAE celebrated the return of thousands of its soldiers from Yemen.
Lt.-Gen. Issa Al Mazrouei, deputy chief of staff of the UAE Armed Forces, said 15,000 Emirati soldiers have participated in coalition efforts in Yemen since the country became involved with more than 130,000 air operations carried out. In addition, 50 ships carrying 3,000 marine soldiers have completed more than 1,000 naval missions. He also said that as part of the coalition, the UAE helped train 200,000 Yemeni soldiers.
“I say this to record it in history: the UAE Armed Forces were fighting three enemies on one land – the rebel Houthis, the Muslim Brotherhood and the terrorist forces of ISIS and Al Qaeda,” Lt.-Gen. Al Mazrouei said at the time.