Rebels carry out missile attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport

Saudi airport is hit by missile fired by Houthi rebels, injuring 26 people, as Riyadh warns the group have received ‘advanced weapons from Iran’

  • Yemen’s Houthi rebels attacked the airport in Abha, a Saudi mountain resort city
  • Officials said that eight people had been taken to hospital after the rocket attack
  • A Saudi-led coalition is fighting the Houthi rebels in a vicious civil war in Yemen 

Twenty-six people have been injured after Yemeni rebels attacked an airport in Saudi Arabia. 

A missile fired by the Houthi rebels hit the airport’s arrivals hall in the mountain resort city of Abha, according to Saudi officials, injuring passengers of different nationalities.   

The Saudi-led coalition which is fighting the Houthis in Yemen immediately pointed the blame at Iran, saying Tehran had equipped the rebel group with ‘advanced weapons’. 

The scene at Abha airport in Saudi Arabia in the early hours of Wednesday as emergency services respond to a rocket attack claimed by Houthi rebels 

Yemen’s civil war has been raging since 2015 and has global implications.

On one side is a government-in-exile backed by Saudi Arabia, which in turn is an ally of the United States. 

On the other are the Houthi rebels, who also claim to be the legitimate government of Yemen. 

The Houthis are backed by Saudi Arabia’s regional enemy, Iran. 

The UN says that most of the country’s 29million people are in need of aid. 

The conflict has come to wider global prominence in recent months. 

First, the fallout from the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year strained relations between Saudi Arabia and the rest. 

It led to demands for Europe and the U.S. to stop providing arms to Saudi Arabia, some of which are used in Yemen. 

Second, the escalating tension between the U.S. and Iran has sparked fears that any sudden movement in Middle East politics could trigger a war.

Donald Trump’s White House has not ruled out military action against Iran, although both sides insist they do not want a war. 

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said there ‘won’t be any war’ while U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. ‘fundamentally does not seek any war’. 

Eight of those wounded at Abha airport were admitted to hospital, coalition spokesman Turki al-Malki said in a statement. 

He said at least one Indian was among three women wounded along with two Saudi children. 

The other 18 were discharged after receiving first aid. Flights were disrupted for several hours before returning to normal. 

The Saudi coalition statement called it a ‘terrorist attack’ and said that the rebels had used a ‘cruise missile’ and targeted civilians. 

Accusing Iran of arming the rebels, they said the attack ‘proves this terrorist militia’s acquisition of new special weapons’ [and] the continuation of the Iranian regime’s support and practice of cross-border terrorism, they said. 

The latest violence ‘could amount to a war crime of targeting civilians and civilian objects in a systematic manner’, the Saudis suggested. 

The spokesman said the coalition would ‘take stern action’ to deter the rebels and protect civilians. 

The rebels acknowledged earlier that they had launched a missile at the airport in the Saudi city. 

Flights from the airport go to the Saudi capital Riyadh as well as other regional hubs such as Cairo, Dubai and Sharjah. 

It comes just weeks after the Houthi forces claimed responsibility for sabotaging Saudi oil tankers in the Gulf of Yemen. 

Saudi and UAE officials were tight-lipped about the extent of the damage but pictures showed at least one tanker with a hole in its hull. 

The mysterious sabotage sent tensions spiralling in the Middle East as the U.S. blamed Iran and its allies for the attack – which divers said appeared to be the work of magnetic explosives. 

Emergency vehicles at the scene in Saudi Arabia this morning after a rocket attack hit the airport’s arrivals hall 

Twenty-six people were injured on Wednesday after Yemeni rebels attacked Abha international airport in Saudi Arabia (stock photo)

They said the assault on Saudi Arabia was meant to send a message to the kingdom to ‘stop your aggression’ on Yemen. 

The rebels, who have faced persistent coalition bombing since March 2015, have stepped up missile and drone attacks across the border in recent weeks.

The incidents sparked fears of a Gulf war breaking out ‘by accident’ with the U.S. and Iranian militaries on high alert amid high tensions between Washington and Tehran. 

The U.S. deployed B-52 bombers and an assault ship to bolster an aircraft carrier in the region. 

Tensions heightened further after two pumping stations on a major Saudi oil pipeline were attacked by explosive-laden drones, halting the flow of crude along it. 

The attack on Wednesday is the latest flashpoint amid escalating Middle East tensions, which erupted again last month after tankers and an oil pipeline were targeted  

Norwegian oil tanker Andrea Victory, one of the four boats damaged in the Gulf, is pictured with a large dent in its stern last month 

Yemen’s civil war has been raging since March 2015, with the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in the Middle East state.   

According to the United Nations, 22 of the country’s 29million people are in need of aid.

An air strike by the Saudi-led coalition that killed dozens of people in Yemen last August was branded an apparent war crime by Human Rights Watch. 

Yemen has also witnessed two outbreaks of cholera and acute watery diarrhea since 2016.   

Earlier this year President Donald Trump vetoed a bill passed by Congress to end U.S. military assistance for the Saudis in Yemen. 

The government of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (left) previously warned Donald Trump (right) that its military is ‘fully ready for any eventuality’ in the Middle East amid spiralling tensions between the two nations

Trump has been under pressure over relations with Saudi Arabia since the kingdom was blamed for murdering dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.  

The columnist went missing on October 2 last year in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where Turkey believes he was killed and then dismembered with a bone saw. 

Khashoggi, who had lived for a time in the U.S., wrote for The Washington Post and had been critical of the Saudi regime.  

Riyadh initially denied any knowledge of his disappearance before saying Khashoggi was killed after ‘negotiations’ to convince him to return to Saudi Arabia failed. 

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and de facto leader Mohammed bin Salman came under global suspicion over his possible role in the killing. 

The kingdom later said the death penalty was being sought against five suspects, in an effort to distance the prince from the murder.   

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