The US has deployed Patriot missiles on “two incoming missiles” at Al Dhafra Air Force Base, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement. This is the first US firing of Patriot missiles since the first Gulf War in 1991, a senior defense officer told DailyExpertNews.
“The combined efforts successfully prevented both missiles from hitting the base. There were no US casualties,” CENTCOM said.
The attack was the second in a week targeting the UAE, which is a member of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition that has been at war with Iran-backed Houthi rebels for years, and marked a significant escalation in tensions. The UAE has largely avoided the line of fire, while Houthis chose to attack Saudi Arabia, which borders Yemen.
DailyExpertNews previously reported that the UAE intercepted two ballistic missiles launched by Houthis early Monday, in what the Iran-backed group warned would be part of an ongoing campaign to target the capital of the Emirates.
At 4.15am, the Abu Dhabi skyline lit up with what witnesses described as “fireballs in the sky”. Some residents of the capital were awakened by the sound of explosions as air defense missiles intercepted the projectiles.
The incident comes a week after a Houthi drone and missile strike near Abu Dhabi airport killed three foreign workers and injured several others.
The UAE Ministry of Defense said in a statement Monday that “its air defenses intercepted and destroyed two ballistic missiles fired by the Houthi terrorist group.”
“There were no casualties in the attack as the remnants of the intercepted and destroyed ballistic missiles fell in separate areas around the emirate of Abu Dhabi,” the statement added.
The ministry said it is “ready to face any threat and is taking all necessary measures to protect the state from all attacks”.
According to the airport’s website, several flights were delayed upon arrival at Abu Dhabi airport. Flight-tracking website Flightradar24 showed Abu Dhabi-bound aircraft flying in circles near the airport.
The US Embassy in Abu Dhabi also called on US citizens in the UAE to maintain a “high level of security awareness”, and issued a series of instructions on how to respond to a missile attack.
Shortly after Monday’s incident in Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s Ministry of Defense said an F-16 fighter jet had destroyed the ballistic missile launcher used to shell the UAE’s capital. It did not specify which country the aircraft belonged to.
Yemeni Houthis claimed they targeted the UAE’s commercial hub, Dubai, as well as Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra Air Base, which houses the US Air Force’s 380th Air Expeditionary Wing.
Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree warned on Monday that the group would “expand their activities in the next phase”.
“We are calling on foreign companies and investors to leave the UAE,” Saree said in a video statement. “It’s subject to continuous targeting.”
Abu Dhabi has repeatedly been ranked as one of the safest cities in the world, with the January 17 strike deemed “unprecedented” by Emirati officials.
For decades, the UAE averted the turbulence in the crisis-ridden region, attracting millions of expatriates and large amounts of foreign investment. The economy of the country relies heavily on foreign labor.
An escalation of a week-long violence
The Yemeni Houthis had vowed to retaliate over the past week’s series of deadly airstrikes by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition – of which the UAE is a key partner – in northern Yemen that killed dozens of people. The airstrikes also disabled internet across the country after hitting a telecommunications tower.
According to internet watchdog NetBlocks, a nationwide internet outage entered its fourth day in Yemen on Monday.
The United Nations Security Council unanimously condemned the January 17 strike in the UAE capital on Friday.
The offensive began in 2015 to restore Yemen’s internationally recognized government after it was overthrown by the Houthis. The coalition has intensified its attacks in the war-torn country in the wake of the Houthi missile and drone strike in Abu Dhabi last week.
In 2019, the UAE withdrew most of its troops from Yemen, after privately deeming the war invincible. The campaign failed to crush the rebels, but took a huge humanitarian toll, with thousands of Yemenis killed and malnutrition and disease rife.
More recently, the UAE has returned to conflict, supporting Yemeni groups in hotbeds such as the oil-rich provinces of Shabwa and Marib.