RIYADH: A Yemeni rebel missile attack on an airport in southwestern Saudi Arabia wounded 26 civilians on Wednesday, drawing promises of “stern action” from the Saudi-led coalition fighting the rebels.
Yemen’s Huthi rebels, who have faced persistent coalition bombing since March 2015 that has exacted a heavy civilian death toll, have stepped up missile and drone attacks across the border in recent weeks.
Wednesday’s missile strike hit the civil airport in the mountain resort of Abha, which is a popular summer getaway for Saudis seeking escape from the searing heat of Riyadh or Jeddah.
Eight of the wounded were admitted to hospital, coalition spokesman Turki al-Malki said.
The other 18 were discharged after receiving first aid, he added in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
The missile caused some damage to the airport’s arrivals lounge and flights were disrupted for several hours before returning to normal.
At least one Indian and a Yemeni were among three women wounded along with two Saudi children, said Malki, adding the “terrorist attack” on a civilian target could be considered a “war crime”.
Malki said the coalition would “take stern action” to deter the rebels and protect civilians.
The attack was also condemned by the United Arab Emirates and Yemen, whose information minister Muammar al-Iryani alleged the strike was carried out “under the supervision of Iranian experts”.
The rebels said they had launched a missile at Abha airport but insisted they had the right to defend themselves in the face of more than years of Saudi-led bombing, and an air and sea blockade.
“The continuation of the aggression and siege on Yemen for the fifth year, the closure of Sanaa airport and the rejection of a political solution make it inevitable for our people to defend themselves,” Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam said in a statement reported by the rebels’ Al-Masirah television.
A rebel military spokesman threatened to attack the airports of “countries of aggression”, referring to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and warned the public to stay away from them.
There has been a spate of cross-border attacks by the rebels in recent weeks which have coincided with reports of intensified coalition strikes on rebel strongholds on the other side of the border.
Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2019
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