The UAE vowed to retaliate after a drone strike on Monday, claimed by Yemeni Huthi rebels, caused a fuel tank explosion that killed three people in Abu Dhabi.
The United Arab Emirates is part of a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition backing the government of Yemen against Iran-backed Huthi rebels, who have repeatedly attacked Saudi Arabia with cross-border attacks.
But this is the first deadly attack on home soil recognized by the UAE and claimed by the rebels, who said they fired ballistic missiles and deployed armed drones.
Two Indians and a Pakistani working for oil giant ADNOC were killed when three petrol tanks exploded near a storage facility, while a fire also broke out in a construction area at Abu Dhabi airport in the heart of the UAE, a well-known safe haven in the volatile Middle East.
Police said “small flying objects, possibly belonging to drones” were found at both locations. Drone attacks have been a feature of the rebels’ attacks on neighboring Saudi Arabia.
“We condemn the attack by the Huthi terrorist militias on civilian areas and facilities on UAE land today… these sinful attacks will not go unpunished,” said UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. in a statement, while his ministry described the attack as a “horrific criminal escalation”.
Huthi’s military spokesman Yahya Saree said they conducted “a successful military operation” against “key and sensitive Emirati sites and installations” using both ballistic missiles and drones.
The incident follows an increase in fighting in Yemen, including advances by 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 Huthi drones targeting Saudi Arabia were also intercepted, the coalition said.
The rebels have previously threatened to target Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the gleaming crown jewels of the UAE that opened its first nuclear power plant last year.
– ‘Clear warning’ –
Abdul Ilah Hajar, adviser to the chairman of Huthi’s Supreme Political Council in Sanaa, said it was a warning shot from the rebels.
“We have sent them a clear warning message by hitting places that are not of great strategic importance,” he told AFP.
“But it is a warning that if the UAE continues its hostility towards Yemen, it will not be able to withstand the coming strikes in the future.”
Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry condemned “in the strongest terms the cowardly terrorist attack”, while Bahrain and Qatar also rebuffed the attacks.
The incident comes two weeks after the rebels hijacked the UAE-flagged Rwabee and released footage allegedly showing military equipment on board.
The UAE said the Rwabee, whose 11 crew members are now held hostage, was a “civil freighter” and called the hijacking a “dangerous escalation” in the busy Red Sea shipping lane.
The rebels later rejected a UN Security Council demand for the ship’s immediate release, saying it was “carrying not toys for children, but weapons for extremists”.
The conflict in Yemen has been a catastrophe for millions of its citizens who have fled their homes, with many on the brink of famine, in what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The UAE joined the coalition against the Huthis before announcing a change of course in 2019.
The pro-government forces of the Giants Brigade, backed by the Saudis and the UAE, recently dealt a major blow to the rebels by retaking three districts in Shabwa Governorate.
The clashes were part of a resurgence of violence in the splintered country, where the war is being fought on multiple fronts.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)