On Monday, January 17, the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition launched airstrikes on different locations in Yemeni capital Sana’a. The airstrikes continued on Tuesday and killed at least 12 people and injured scores others, Yemen’s Al-Masirah TV reported.
The number of dead may rise as several people were buried under the debris of houses in Sana’a’s Libyan neighborhood, according to news reports. The airstrikes followed a Houthi attack on Abu Dhabi in the UAE on Monday, in which at least three foreign nationals were killed.
The Houthis control the majority of the populated areas in Yemen, including the capital Sana’a. They claimed to have launched ballistic missiles and drone strikes at several facilities in the UAE on Monday.
The Houthis reportedly hit an oil facility in Abu Dhabi, as well as the city’s main international airport, killing three people and injuring at least six others. Two of the three reportedly killed belong to India while one person was a Pakistani national. All three were killed when a storage tanker exploded due to the attack.
Spokesperson of the Houthis, Brigadier General Yahya Sarie, said on Monday that “the armed forces carried out a successful military operation [Yemen Hurricane] targeting the Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports, al-Musaffah oil refinery in Abu Dhabi,” Yemeni news agency Saba reported.
A few days ago, the Houthis had seized a ship bearing the UAE’s flag in the Red Sea and refused to let it go despite calls by the UN, claiming it was carrying arms.
On Monday, a Houthi spokesperson said that their attacks aimed to discourage the UAE from being part of the Saudi-led coalition. He said that more such retaliation will follow and warned civilians to stay away from vital sites to avoid harm.
Seven-year long war
While the Houthis have previously carried out attacks inside Saudi Arabia, this was their first attack inside the UAE. Saudi Arabia and the UAE lead an international coalition of countries that are waging a war against the Houthis since 2015 in support of former Yemeni president Abdrabbuh Masour Hadi, who has since fled the country and now lives in Riyadh.
The Saudi coalition has received consistent foreign support from countries like the US, UK and France that have not only supplied weapons, but also provided technical assistance for the coalition’s airstrikes inside Yemen in which thousands of civilians have been killed. According to the Yemen Data Project, coalition forces have carried out over 5,000 airstrikes inside Yemen, killing at least 70 civilians last year.
Almost half of all air raids in 2021 hit Marib. 884 air raids, up to 5,322 individual airstrikes targeted Marib⬆️21% from 2020. Hudaydah was the worst place for civilians in the air war in 2021 – the highest rate of air raids & civilian casualties since 2018 Stockholm Agreement. pic.twitter.com/nLl9muHQwN
— Yemen Data Project (@YemenData) January 17, 2022
The Houthi attack inside the UAE also reveals their growing capacity to retaliate in distant areas and threaten the Saudi allies in the region.
According to the UN, the war in Yemen has caused the “world’s largest humanitarian disaster” of the century. At least 400,000 Yemenis have been killed and millions displaced due to the war. The conflict has pushed almost half of Yemen’s total population of 30 million to the brink of starvation, in large part because the coalition has imposed a complete land, sea and air blockade of the country, making it difficult to import even essential food and medicine. The lack of essential goods has led to high inflation and further damaged people’s purchasing capacity in the Arab world’s poorest country.
The UN-led humanitarian assistance program in Yemen has also suffered due to the blockade and constant bombing of civilian infrastructure by the Saudi-led coalition.
While both sides have been negotiating from time to time, the recent escalation has further damaged chances for peace.