Rebels carry out missile attack on Saudi Arabia's Abha airport

Larry Hoffman
June 13, 2019

A Yemeni rebel missile attack on an airport in southwestern Saudi Arabia wounded 26 civilians on Wednesday, drawing promises of "stern action" from the Saudi-led coalition fighting the rebels.

"The continuation of the aggression and siege on Yemen for the fifth year, the closure of Sanaa airport and the rejection of a political solution make it inevitable for our people to defend themselves", Huthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam said in a statement reported by the rebels' Al-Masirah television.

A coalition statement said a projectile hit the arrivals hall at Abha airport, causing material damage.

Three women - one Yemeni, one Indian and one Saudi - and two Saudi children are among those hurt.

Accusing Iran of arming the rebels, they said the attack "proves this terrorist militia's acquisition of new special weapons".

The attack is just the latest in a wave of rebel drone and missile attacks targeting the kingdom, which has been mired in a yearslong war in Yemen that has killed an estimated 60,000 people and pushed the Arab world's poorest nation to the brink of starvation.

Though there were no fatalities, it was the largest number of civilians to be injured in Saudi Arabia as a result of an attack by the rebels since the start of the Saudi-led war in Yemen more than four years ago.

Eight of those wounded at Abha airport on Wednesday were admitted to hospital, the coalition spokesman Turki al-Malki said.

"The primary goal of the visit was to mediate between Iran and United States for a step forward and to de-escalate tensions in the region", she said. Saudi Arabia accused Iran of ordering the attack, a charge that Tehran and the Houthi movement deny.

The conflict is widely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Col Maliki said the attack on a civilian airport, which is about 200km (125 miles) north of the border with Yemen, was a serious violation of global humanitarian law and that it might constitute a war crime.

The Houthis have previously used ballistic missiles to target the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and the airport there. In March 2018 an Egyptian was killed in Riyadh by missile shrapnel.

Thousands of passengers pass through Abha airport every day.

Palestine, Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt and Djibouti all condemned the missile strike.

But the unusually-high casualty toll is the latest signal that the group's attacks on the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen are becoming increasingly sophisticated. The coalition has responded in the past by carrying out air strikes on Houthi military sites in and around Sanaa. -Iranian tension following Washington's move to tighten sanctions on Tehran and to reinforce its military presence in the Gulf. More than 22 million people in Yemen are desperate for humanitarian aid and protection.

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