UAE shoots down Houthi missile over Mocha, Yemen

The UAE Armed Forces Patriot missile system intercepted the ballistic missile in Mocha

A still image taken from a video distributed by Yemen's pro-Houthi Al Masirah television station on November 5, 2017, shows what it says was the launch by Houthi forces of a ballistic missile aimed at Riyadh's King Khaled Airport a day earlier.
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UAE air defences shot down a ballistic missile fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen's south-eastern port city of Mocha on Sunday.

A Houthi mobile ballistic missile launcher near Hodeidah airport, about 160 kilometres north of Mocha, was also destroyed, state news agency Wam reported.

The Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen, of which the UAE is a key member, destroyed another launch site near the airport last week as the rebels were preparing to fire a missile at Mocha.

A coalition intervened in the Yemen conflict in 2015 to support the internationally recognised government against the Iran-backed rebels.

Sunday's attack on Mocha comes as the United States, France and Britain are pressing the United Nations Security Council to condemn Iran for failing to stop its ballistic missiles from falling into the hands of the Houthi rebels and commit to taking action over the sanctions violations.

The draft text of a resolution to renew UN sanctions on Yemen for another year would also allow the 15-member council to impose targeted sanctions for “any activity related to the use of ballistic missiles in Yemen”, according to a copy seen by Reuters.

Saudi foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir voiced support for the resolution on Sunday, saying it would help hold Iran accountable for what he described as its "exports of ballistic missiles" to the Houthis.

Iranian missiles were regularly used by Houthis "to target civilians in Yemen as well as inside Saudi Arabia", he told Reuters.

Britain drafted the resolution in consultation with the United States and France before giving it to the full council on Friday, diplomats told Reuters. The resolution, which needs to be adopted by February 26, is likely to face resistance from Russia. A resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by Russia, China, the United States, France or Britain to pass.

Mr Al Jubeir said he hoped Russia could be persuaded to support the measure.

US President Donald Trump’s administration has been lobbying for months for Iran to be held accountable at the United Nations, while at the same time threatening to quit a 2015 deal among world powers to curb Iran’s nuclear programme if “disastrous flaws” are not fixed.

"Since the signing of the nuclear agreement, the Iranian regime's support of dangerous militias and terror groups has markedly increased. Its missiles and advanced weapons are turning up in war zones all across the Middle East," the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, wrote in an essay published in the New York Times on Saturday.

Iran denies supplying the Houthis with weapons but independent UN experts monitoring the sanctions on Yemen reported to the Security Council in January that it had “identified missile remnants, related military equipment and military unmanned aerial vehicles that are of Iranian origin and were brought into Yemen after the imposition of the targeted arms embargo”.

While the experts said they had “no evidence as to the identity of the supplier, or any intermediary third party” of the missiles fired by the Yemeni rebels into neighbouring Saudi Arabia, they found Iran had violated sanctions by failing to prevent the supply, sale or transfer of the missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles to the Houthis.

The Security Council has banned the supply of weapons to Houthi leaders and “those acting on their behalf or at their direction”. It can also blacklist individuals and entities for threatening the peace and stability of Yemen or hindering aid access.

Ms Haley took her Security Council colleagues to Washington in January to view pieces of the weapons in a bid to boost the US case against Iran. Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said after the visit that he does not believe there is a case for United Nations action against Iran. Iran has described the arms displayed in Washington as “fabricated”.

"Some members of the United Nations don't want to hear it because it is further proof that Iran is defying Security Council resolutions, and the pressure will be on the UN to do something about it," Ms Haley wrote in the New York Times.

Meanwhile, eight soldiers and 19 suspected members of Al Qaeda were killed on Sunday, as the army continued an offensive against key outposts of the extremists in Yemen's oil-rich Hadramawt province.

General Faraj Al Bahsani, the provincial governor, told Agence France-Presse the army had taken control of Wadi Al Masini west of Mukallah city.

Mukallah was the most populated Yemeni city under direct Al Qaeda control from 2015 to 2016, when government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition seized control of the southern port city.

Special forces trained by the UAE launched the offensive, codenamed Al Faisal, against Al Qaeda cells in Hadramawt over the weekend.

Two soldiers were killed on Saturday in the offensive, which targets the Masini and Amed valleys — both in the vast province of Hadramawt and home to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

The two valleys are critical to control over Yemen's south-eastern coastline.

More than 9,200 people have been killed in the Yemen war since 2015, when the Saudi-led coalition joined the government's fight against the Houthi rebels.

Radical groups, including AQAP and ISIL, have flourished in the chaos of the war, regularly launching attacks on government and military targets.

The United States, the only force known to operate armed drones over Yemen, has ramped up a long-running campaign against AQAP since President Trump took office in 2017.

On Yemen's western coast, coalition forces continued to attack Houthi strongholds and conduct air raids on vital areas between Haiys and Al Garahi districts in the south of Hodeidah province in support of the Yemeni army and resistance fighters battling the rebels.

A source from the resistance told Wam that coalition air raids on Saturday night hit areas where the rebels were gathering in Al Hamely, Mawza District, and east of Khalid bin Al Walid camp, destroying their military equipment and weapons.

The source said coalition forces were still clearing pockets of rebel resistance in areas between Eastern Mocha and Haiys district.


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