MENA Monitor focuses on the Middle East and North Africa region, analyzing the most important events happening in the area stretching from Morocco to Iran, their consequences for neighboring countries and their impact on the world’s situation.
Date: 25 January 2022 Author: Michał Przygoda
United Arab Emirates. Escalating Conflict with the Houthi Rebels
The conflict in Yemen has been a disaster for millions of its citizens who have fled their homes, many of whom are on the brink of starvation. The United Arab Emirates joined the coalition against the Houthis in 2019. Yemeni non-governmental forces backed by the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates have dealt the rebels some very painful blows recently. Three districts in the Shabwa governorate were recaptured. The clashes were only part of a surge in violence taking place in a devastated country where the war is fought on several fronts.
The Arab coalition fighting in Yemen launched air strikes on the country’s capital on Monday, shortly after Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for a bloody drone attack in the United Arab Emirates. In the Al-Ekhbariya news outlet, the Saudi Arabian government informed that “the Houthi targeting of civilians in the kingdom and the UAE are war crimes whose perpetrators must be held accountable”. A statement issued by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation reserved “the right to respond”. Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said drone attacks that hit Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) fuel facilities and the airport would not go unpunished. “Emirati authorities were handling the rebel group’s vicious attack on some civilian facilities in the United Arab Emirates capital with transparency and responsibility,” said Anwar Gargash, diplomatic advisor to the UAE’s leadership.
The attack carried out near the airport of Abu Dhabi killed at least three people, causing panic among the inhabitants of the United Arab Emirates capital. The Emirates News Agency WAM reported that one Pakistani and two Indian nationals were killed. Police report states eight people were injured, including two airport employees and six others wounded in the attack. A spokesman for the Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attack, warning that “the UAE is an unsafe state as long as its aggressive escalation against Yemen continues”. “Five ballistic missiles and a large number of drones were used in an operation dubbed as ‘Operation Hurricane Yemen’ targeted at Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports, the Musaffah oil refinery in Abu Dhabi and a number of important and sensitive Emirati sites and facilities.” Monday’s Houthi attack is considered the first deadly attack on Emirati soil to be recognized by the UAE and confirmed by the rebels.
Minutes after the Houthis had claimed responsibility, air strikes by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition began. According to Al-Masirah, the media run by the rebels in control of the Yemeni capital, at least 12 people were killed and 11 wounded. The state-run Houthi media also reported that in the past 24 hours the Saudi Arabia-led coalition carried out more than 24 air strikes on various areas in Yemen, causing severe material damage.
The incident follows a surge in fighting in Yemen, including advances of UAE-trained troops. The rebels also seized a UAE-flagged ship and its international crew earlier this month. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation all condemned the “terrorist” attack. Eight Houthi drones attacking Saudi Arabia were also intercepted, the coalition reports. Other countries such as the US, Russia and France, as well as the UN, also condemned the attack on Emirati soil. The rebels had earlier threatened to attack Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the glittering crown jewels of the United Arab Emirates, which launched its first nuclear power plant last year.
The Yemeni conflict began in 2014 after the Houthis captured the capital city and overthrew the government, with violence escalating after the intervention of a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and including the United Arab Emirates. The war has taken on features of a proxy battle between Tehran and its opponents in the Gulf, reflecting longstanding geopolitical tensions between Iran, the Shiite Muslim theocracy and Sunni Muslim monarchies in the west.
Monday’s attacks were carried out almost 800 miles from territory that is controlled by the Houthis. This is a clear sign that the war, which has been going on for more than seven years and caused one of the world’s most dire humanitarian crises, leading to death of tens of thousands of people – continues to destabilize the region.
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