The military coalition led by Saudi Arabia said it had prevented a drone attack launched by Houthis from Yemen towards Khamis Mushait in the kingdom’s southwest region, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.
The latest drone attack targeted the garrison town of Khamis Mushait that hosts a key airbase in southern Saudi Arabia but was destroyed before reaching its target, coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki said, quoted by the kingdom’s official SPA agency on Thursday.
“Joint Coalition Forces have intercepted and destroyed this morning a bomb-laden UAV launched systematically and deliberately by the terrorist Houthi militia to target civilians and civilian objects in Khamis Mushait,” statement by the Official Spokesman of the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen Brigadier General Turki Al-Malki reads.
Earlier on Wednesday the military coalition reported that the Houthis had hit a civilian plane at the Abha International Airport in the southwest of the country, causing fire.
The coalition said the attack set a civilian aircraft ablaze, while the Houthis said they had struck Abha airport with four drones, claiming it was used to launch attacks inside Yemen. There was no information about casualties.
Arab media published photos of a plane with a hole in its airframe that it claimed was due to a collision with two armed drones. Yemeni rebels from the Ansar Allah (Houthi) movement claimed that their mined drones took down Saudi military aircraft, not a civilian plane.
The United States reacted by calling for the rebels to “immediately stop these aggressive acts”, just days after demanding an end to any new offensive in Yemen. US President Joe Biden, who has reversed his predecessor Donald Trump’s policy on the conflict, has deployed his new Yemen envoy to Saudi Arabia.
On Wednesday, Tim Lenderking and his United Nations counterpart Martin Griffiths met Saudi’s deputy defence minister, Khaled bin Salman, who oversees the Yemen portfolio.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the attack on Abha during a call with his Saudi opposite number Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, SPA reported.
Washington has ended its support for coalition military operations in Yemen and removed the Houthis from a list of designated “terrorist” organisations but reiterated its support for Riyadh in defending its territory.
Active hostilities have continued in Yemen since the armed Houthi movement, concentrated primarily in the north of the country, opposed the current Yemeni government, led by the president-in-exile, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
Open conflict erupted in 2014 when a mass demonstration occurred in some parts of Yemen as protesters seized key government facilities and Hadi fled to the Saudi capital of Riyadh. Following Hadi’s flight, a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia entered into the conflict in March 2015 and since that time has regularly attacked Houthi camps.
In recent years, the Houthis have repeatedly used ballistic missiles and drones to target international airports, along with military installations and critical oil infrastructure, within Saudi Arabia. Those attacks, often focused on the southern cities of Abha and Jizan, have wounded dozens and killed at least one person.
Both sides in Yemen’s conflict have since been accused of war crimes during fighting that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions, sparking what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.