It’s an unprecedented attack in more ways than one. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was the scene of several explosions on its territory on Monday, January 17th. Three tankers exploded “near the Adnoc storage tanks”, the Abu Dhabi Oil Company in Musaffah, an industrial area around twenty kilometers west of the capital. According to the official WAM agency, one Pakistani and two Indians were killed and six people were injured.
→ ANALYSIS. In Yemen, the coalition is revising its strategy ahead of the Battle of Marib
A “small fire” also happened “the new development area of Abu Dhabi International Airport”, without causing losses. In both cases, the Abu Dhabi police spoke “most likely” drones, “flying objects” being “fell off” in the affected areas.
A “Clear Warning”
Simultaneously, the Houthi rebels announced through the voice of the speaker, Yahya Saree “Major military operation in the United Arab Emirates”. The explosion and fire in the Emirates were not officially claimed by the rebel leaders, but Abdellilah Hajar, a rebel official in Sana’a, claimed the Houthis intended to attack them “Places that are not of great strategic importance” send one “Clear Warning”. “If the Emirates continue to attack Yemen, they will not be able to withstand painful attacks in the future,” he told the Agence France-Presse.
Emiratis and Houthis have clashed in Yemen since 2015, when Abu Dhabi joined the Saudi-led coalition to support government forces against rebels.
The unprecedented nature of Monday’s events stems from the fact that the attack did not take place on Saudi soil, where they have multiplied in recent months, but on Emirati soil, which is often portrayed as a haven of peace in a troubled region.
However, this is not the first time the Houthis have targeted UAE interests as they are still UAE-owned rwabeea boat flying the Emirates flag, was seized off the port of Hodeïda in the Red Sea west of Yemen on January 3.
Ever more sophisticated drones
Most importantly, Monday’s attacks are seen as retaliation, days after pro-government forces, backed by the Emirates, drove the Houthis out of oil-rich Shabwa province, hampering their advance into the coveted Marib region, the last Loyalist stronghold.
Emirati forces, which distanced themselves from the coalition two years ago, have recently returned to Yemeni territory, supporting local militias and the so-called “Brigade of Giants” (Al Almaliqah) commanded by Abdul Rahman Abou Zahra Mahrami. These forces, which had taken part in the Battle of Hodeïda, had left this strategic port region at the end of November, just to reposition themselves in the key Marib region and compromise Houthi objectives.
→ ANALYSIS. In Yemen, the struggle for control of Marib is intensifying
But in the face of these attacks, the Houthis also seem to have upped their game: in recent months, the Iran-backed rebels have been developing advanced versions of their drones that can deliver long-range strikes with vastly improved accuracy, the Wall Street Journal, who was able to see a draft report by a UN panel of experts. On Monday, the coalition also said it had seen an increase in “Drone Bombs Launched by Houthis from Sana’a International Airport”, Taken in 2014 and located… 1,800 kilometers from Abu Dhabi.
The deputy head of the Houthi Ministry of Information, Nasr Al Din Amir, has already warned that more attacks are planned: “The purpose of this operation is to respond to and deter escalation. And if they continue in this direction, we will continue to respond with our military operations against the UAE.” he hinted, Fostering fears of a new spiral of violence. This multi-equation conflict has already claimed more than 377,000 lives in Yemen since 2014.