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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 7 March 2021

Houthi drones shot down over Saudi Arabia

The Iran-backed rebels have attacked the kingdom with several strikes in recent days

A combination image provided by the Saudi Media Ministry showing the wreckage of a UAV drone used to attack Abha airport. AFP
A combination image provided by the Saudi Media Ministry showing the wreckage of a UAV drone used to attack Abha airport. AFP

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen said it intercepted two drones launched by the Houthi militia towards a city in the kingdom’s south-west on Sunday.

The drones were aimed at Khamis Mushait. It is 30 kilometres from the city of Abha, where Houthis hit the civilian airport last week. The coalition also shot down a drone trying to attack that airport on Saturday.

“The Houthis are deliberately targeting civilians through their terrorist attempts,” the coalition said in a statement.

It has intercepted more than 345 ballistic missiles and 515 drones launched towards the kingdom.

The coalition said on Sunday that there will be a response "to targeting the Houthi militia members and leaders. Civilians and civilian objects are considered a red line."

Yemeni rebels regularly fire projectiles and drones at Saudi Arabia but there has been a sharp rise in attacks in recent days.

The Houthis claimed the latest one a short time later.

The coalition reported intercepting Houthi drones on Thursday and Friday.

An attack on Wednesday using several drones resulted in a civilian aircraft catching fire at Abha airport, in Asir province.

Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki Al Malki called the waves of attacks a war crime that threatened the lives of the public and passengers at Abha airport.

He said the military were “taking the necessary measures to protect civilians from the threats of the Houthis”.

Abdallah Al Mouallimi, Saudi representative to the UN, wrote to the Security Council calling for fair condemnation for these acts and to hold Houthis accountable, in accordance with international humanitarian law.

On Saturday, Dr Nayef Falah Mubarak Al Hajraf, Secretary General of the Gulf Co-operation Council, condemned the repeated attacks on the kingdom.

He encouraged all countries to stand against the Houthi militia and those who support them.

“Since Saudis can’t travel abroad, domestic tourism had really picked up and Abha is one of the hotspots,” Samira Ahmed, a Saudi translator living in Riyadh, told The National. “Since these recent attacks and especially now that it is continuous, we don’t feel safe travelling back to Abha at the moment. My family has asked me to stay back,” she said.

Hussein Ali, a Saudi photographer living in Jeddah, said he was in Abha before the attack last week, which damaged a plane on the runway.

“That was really close. It’s scary to think it could’ve blown up if the Saudi coalition forces hadn’t intercepted it,” he said. “Killing innocents is an act of cowardice and I pray for the safety of my countrymen.”

Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Saudi officials about boosting security.

US envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking arrived in the kingdom last Wednesday as the attack hit Abha airport.

Mr Blinken condemned the attacked during a call with Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.

On Friday, Civil Defence and the Communications and Information Technology Commission said they would test a national early-warning system which uses mobile text messages to alert the public.

While trials were carried out, people were asked not to panic if they receive these messages, which will be issued in various parts of the country.

Updated: February 14, 2021 07:04 PM

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