Twenty-six people were wounded yesterday when Houthi rebels fired a missile at Abha International Airport in southern Saudi Arabia.
Although the Yemen-based group has targeted Abha before, this was the first time the airport was successfully attacked. The airport is located about 110km (70 miles) from the Saudi-Yemen border.
Saudi military spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki said the missile hit the arrivals terminal and that the wounded included women of at least three nationalities – Saudi, Yemeni and Indian – as well as two Saudi children. None of the injuries were life-threatening but eight were transferred to hospital with moderate injuries. Maliki said the attack was a violation of international humanitarian law and that it might constitute a war crime.
Saudi Arabia is currently fighting in coalition with other Gulf states alongside the internationally-recognised government of Yemen against the Houthi rebels, who control parts of Yemen. Maliki said the coalition would: “Take urgent and timely measures to deter this terrorist militia, and to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian objects.”
A coalition statement reported on Saudi-owned al-Arabiya said: “This attack also proves this terrorist militia’s acquisition of new special weapons; the continuation of the Iranian regime’s support and practice of cross-border terrorism.”
The Houthi military spokesman Brigadier General Yahai Sare’e said: “The latest American systems could not intercept the missile. This strike spread panic and fear among enemies and caused a great confusion in their side.” The Houthis said they had launched a cruise missile at the airport’s control tower, knocking it out of service. The Saudis did not confirm that the control tower was damaged, but the Saudi civil aviation body told Reuters that flight traffic was currently running normally at the airport.
UN Spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York: “We urge all parties to prevent any such further incidents, which risk escalating the current situation, pose a serious threat to national and regional security and undermine the UN – led political process.”