“The armed forces (of the Houthis) conducted a qualitative and successful military operation as part of an operation called the Yemen hurricane,” their spokesman Yahya Saree said in a statement aired on their Al-Massira channel on Monday evening. “Many important and sensitive sites and facilities in the Emirates” have been attacked with ballistic missiles and drones, he said.
The Emirates are members of a Saudi-led military coalition that has operated in Yemen since 2015 to support government forces in the war against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
Later in the day, three tankers exploded “near the storage tanks of ADNOC,” the Abu Dhabi oil company, killing a Pakistani and two Indians, Emirati official agency WAM said, reporting “six injured”.
In addition, a “small fire” broke out in the “new development area of Abu Dhabi International Airport”, the agency added, without reporting any injuries.
The blast and fire were “probably” caused by “drones,” “flying objects” that “fell” on the two affected locations, WAM said, citing Abu Dhabi Police, who have launched investigations.
This attack by the Houthi rebels is the first to claim lives on Emirates territory. The Houthis have threatened strikes in the past and claimed responsibility for attacks that have never been confirmed by authorities in this Gulf oil monarchy. Yemen’s Houthi rebels on Monday urged civilians and foreign companies to “stay away from vital facilities” in the United Arab Emirates after claiming responsibility for an attack that killed three people in the capital Abu Dhabi .
“We warn foreign companies, citizens and residents of the enemy state of the United Arab Emirates that for their own safety, they should stay away from vital sites and facilities,” rebel military spokesman Yahya Saree said in a channel broadcast by the Houthi Al- Massira.
Condemn the UN and Iraq
The Foreign Ministry, quoted by WAM, condemned this attack on “civilian facilities on Emirati territory” and warned it “will not go unpunished”.
“The Emirates reserve the right to respond to these terrorist attacks and this eerie criminal escalation,” he said.
“This thoughtlessness and irresponsible absurdity is doomed to destruction,” warned Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the Emirates President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, on Twitter.
Many reactions, including France
Allies of the Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have also pointed the finger at the Yemeni rebels by denouncing a “terrorist” act.
Iraq condemned the attack, as did UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The UN chief urged them to “prevent any escalation related to heightened tensions in the region,” added Stéphane Dujarric, recalling that “attacks on civilians or civilian infrastructure are prohibited by international humanitarian law.”
France, in turn, condemned the attack on the Emirates on Monday evening. “The President strongly condemns the attacks suffered by Abu Dhabi and supports the United Arab Emirates,” declared the French Presidency, specifying that France “remains mobilized for a lasting political solution in Yemen.” Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, described the attack as a “threat” to regional “stability”.
The United States vowed to “hold accountable” the pro-Iranian Houthi rebels in Yemen. “The United States strongly condemns today’s terrorist attack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, which killed three innocent civilians,” said Jake Sullivan, White House national security adviser. “The Houthis have claimed responsibility for the attack and we will work with the UAE and our international partners to hold them accountable,” he added in a statement.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss also “condemned” the attacks on Monday evening. “I strongly condemn the terrorist attacks against the United Arab Emirates alleged by the Houthis,” she tweeted, following in the footsteps of Paris and Washington.
In return: air strikes
“If the Emirates continue to attack Yemen, they will not be able to withstand painful attacks in the future,” Abdellilah Hajar told AFP in Sana’a, the capital of Houthi-held Yemen.
The coalition fighting rebels in Yemen announced airstrikes on Sana’a on Monday evening. “In response to the threat and a military necessity, airstrikes are beginning in Sana’a,” she announced in a tweet from SPA, the official Saudi Arabian news agency that heads the coalition.
Rebels increased attacks
The conflict in Yemen, which has claimed the lives of 377,000 people, has intensified in recent weeks with an increase in raids by the military coalition and ground offensives by government forces.
For their part, the rebels have multiplied rocket and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, a country neighboring Yemen.
The Riyadh-led coalition on Monday reported an increase in “drone bombs fired by the Houthis from Sana’a International Airport”.
She also claimed to have “intercepted and destroyed eight drones that were fired towards the Saudi kingdom”.
Iran, which has a difficult relationship with the Emirates, openly supports the rebels but refuses to supply arms, something its political opponents Saudi Arabia and the United States have accused.