Yemen rebels hit Saudi airport, coalition vows action


A missile attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels targeted a civilian airport in southern Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, injuring at least 26 and triggering a sharp warning from a Saudi-led military coalition that it would respond firmly.

The Saudi-led coalition which is fighting the Houthis in Yemen said that the injured victims were of "different nationalities".

The missile struck the Abha International Airport, around 125 miles from the Saudi-Yemen border, at 2.21am, according to the Saudi government.

To discuss the latest updates we speak with Mahjoob Zweiri, director of the Gulf Studies Center at Qatar University, our Yemen correspondent Mohammed Al Attab from Sanaa and, finally, journalist Hussain Al Bukhaiti who joins us from Sanaa.

"The targeting of Abha airport proves that the Houthis have obtained advanced weapons from Iran", a coalition statement said.

Hussain Bukhati, a pro-Houthi journalist, told Al Jazeera the missile attack was part of a move by the group to target the coalition with "eye-for-an-eye" attacks, adding Houthi forces in Sanaa still had "many surprise" attacks planned.

Reuters, quoting unnamed Iranian officials, said Iran plans to ask Abe to mediate with the ease those sanctions.

Airport operations and air traffic also resumed after being disrupted for a few hours.

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The nearest Patriot battery to Abha airport is about 20 km to the north, said Jeremy Binnie, Middle East & Africa editor of Jane's Defence Weekly.

Yemen's Houthi rebels have stepped up missile and drone attacks across the border in recent weeks.

The attack follows an armed drone strike last month on two oil-pumping stations in the kingdom that was claimed by the Houthis.

"The Houthis claimed through its media full responsibility for the attack, which constitutes a clear recognition for targeting civilians and civilian objects that are subject to special protection under worldwide humanitarian law, thus could amount to a war crime of targeting civilians and civilian objects in a systematic manner", he said. Saudi Arabia accused Iran of ordering the attack, a charge that Tehran and the Houthi movement deny.

As in that strike, the Saudi-led coalition was quick to accuse its regional rival Iran of orchestrating Wednesday's attack, saying that the attack could amount to a war crime.

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The rebels said they had targeted the King Khalid airbase near Khamis Mushait.

It has triggered what the United Nations describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with 24.1 million Yemenis - more than two-thirds of the population - in need of aid.