A drone strike launched by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis on Wednesday left a civilian plane ablaze at a Saudi airport, drawing warnings from the US days after it moved to delist the rebels as terrorists.
Saudi authorities did not immediately report any casualties from the attack, claimed by the Houthis, the latest in a series of rebel assaults on the kingdom, despite a renewed US push to de-escalate Yemen’s six-year conflict.
Pictures released by state media showed a blackened gash on the side of a passenger jet after the attack, which occurred on the same day the new US special envoy for Yemen Timothy Lenderking met Saudi Arabian Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Riyadh for talks.
Photo: AFP / Saudi Ministry of Media
Washington condemned the assault and called on the Houthis to “constructively engage” in US President Joe Biden’s effort to jumpstart peace negotiations.
“There is no military solution to the war in Yemen. We again urge the Houthis to immediately stop these aggressive acts,” US Department of State spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington.
Saudi state media released images of what it said was wreckage from a drone, apparently showing engine parts and aerial fins scattered across the tarmac of the airport.
“A cowardly criminal terrorist attack launched against Abha International Airport in Saudi Arabia by the Houthi militia,” state-run al-Ekhbariya television quoted the Riyadh-led military coalition battling the rebels as saying.
“A fire that engulfed a passenger plane due to the Houthi attack on Abha Airport is under control,” it added.
The coalition did not say how the attack was carried out. However, earlier in the day it reported that it had intercepted two “booby trapped” drones in the south.
The Shiite Houthis, who control much of northern Yemen, said they had struck Abha airport with four drones.
Yahya Sarie, spokesman for the Houthis’ armed wing, claimed the airport was used to launch attacks on Yemen.
However, Yemeni Minister of Information Moammar al-Eryani denounced the attack as a “full-fledged war crime,” as it endangered the lives of “thousands of civilian travellers of various nationalities.”
Abha’s international airport, which has been struck by the rebels before, is just more than 100km from Saudi Arabia’s southern border with Yemen.
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