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Yemen’s Houthi militants launch new attack on UAE as conflict widens

A satellite image shows the aftermath of last week's attack claimed by Yemen's Houthi rebels on an Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. site. (Planet Labs PBC/AP)

The United Arab Emirates said Monday that military forces had intercepted two ballistic missiles launched by Yemen’s Houthi militants, who pledged to “expand” their military operations against adversaries in the Persian Gulf.

U.S. forces at Al Dhafra Air Base, near the Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi, responded to the threat with multiple Patriot interceptors, Capt. Bill Urban, U.S. Central Command spokesman, said in a statement. He said Emirati forces were also involved. The attack forced U.S. personnel to take cover inside protective bunkers at the base, Urban said, adding that no Americans were wounded.

The missile assault caused no casualties, a UAE Defense Ministry statement said. It was the second Houthi attack on the UAE in a week, representing a rapid and dangerous broadening of violence from Yemen’s seven-year civil war.

Three killed in UAE capital in suspected drone attack claimed by Yemen rebels

Drone strikes by the Houthis last week killed two Indians and a Pakistani in Abu Dhabi, an attack the militants said was retaliation for the UAE’s stepped-up military intervention in Yemen.

In response, a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition that includes the UAE carried out airstrikes in Yemen, which in a matter of days, killed more than 100 civilians, according to witnesses and humanitarian aid groups.

The deadliest strike, on Friday at a detention center in northern Yemen, killed at least 82 people. Another airstrike on a telecommunications center in the port city of Hodeida knocked out Internet coverage across much of Yemen and killed three children playing nearby.

As of Monday, Internet service had not been restored.

After Monday’s attack, a Houthi military statement said the movement would confront “escalation with escalation” and warned foreign companies and investors to leave the UAE, which is a major center of foreign investment in the Middle East.

The spiraling conflict imperils the country’s reputation as an oasis of calm amid conflicts around the region. In the past few years, the UAE has signaled a diminishing role in Yemen’s ruinous war, which has caused widespread humanitarian suffering — even as the Emiratis have continued to back proxy forces in Yemen.

The UAE, along with Saudi Arabia and a coalition of other Arab countries, intervened in the war in 2015 with the aim of beating back Houthi advances across the country.

The Houthi military statement Monday described a broader attack than the Emiratis had acknowledged, saying the militants had gone after an air base “and other sensitive targets” in Abu Dhabi with ballistic missiles, as well as other unnamed sites in neighboring Dubai with drones. The statement added that attacks had been carried out on Saudi Arabia, as well.

Dozens killed, including children, in airstrikes in Yemen

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby, speaking at a news briefing Monday, said the United States was looking into the possibility that the Houthi attack “was directed at our forces” at Al Dhafra Air Base, where approximately 2,000 American military service members and other personnel are stationed. “I can’t specifically tell you what the intent of the attack was, but we have to assume — it would be foolish for us not to assume there was a threat to our people,” he said.

A Saudi statement said the military had destroyed ballistic missiles heading toward the eastern city of Dhahran. The kingdom’s Civil Defense Directorate said a missile had also fallen on the southern Jazan region, injuring two foreign nationals and damaging vehicles and industrial workshops.

As strikes and retaliations have shaken the region, the Internet outage has caused an unsettling interruption of news from Yemen, amid reports of frequent attacks and worries the outage would hamper financial remittances sent to the country and complicate the work of aid agencies operating there.

Most major stock indexes in the gulf fell on Monday following the Houthi attack, with Dubai’s main index being hit the hardest. Oil prices also rose on Monday by nearly half a percent, a rise attributed to the escalation of tensions between Russia and Ukraine as well as the intensifying conflict in the Middle East.

Siobhán O’Grady in Cairo and Karoun Demirjian in Washington contributed to this report.

Read more:

More than a dozen killed in airstrikes on Yemeni capital

Who are the Houthis and why did they attack Abu Dhabi?

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