Iran-backed Yemeni rebels attack Saudi civilian airport

The Saudi-led military coalition threatened a firm response to a Houthi missile attack on an airport, which injured at least 26 people. The attack came just hours before Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe landed in Tehran.

A statement by the Western-backed Saudi coalition on Wednesday said a missile fired by Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen targeted the arrival hall of the Abha airport in southern Saudi Arabia. The attack reportedly wounded 26 people, including three women and two children.

The Houthis confirmed they fired a cruise missile at Abha airport, which is about 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of the Yemen border.

Saudi Arabia said the missile attacked amounted to a war crime and that it would respond "urgently and timely."

"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 coalition said.

Read more: Saudi Arabia will defend itself 'with all force' but doesn't want war

Saudi allies, Bahrain and Egypt, condemned the missile attack and called for an immediate halt to all attacks on Saudi territories.

It was the third major armed attack by Houthis inside Saudi Arabia in the past few weeks, with the Yemeni rebels targeting two oil-pumping stations  and launching a drone attack on Najran airport in May.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

War: The 'root cause' of Yemen's disasters

The UN has identified conflict as the "root cause" of Yemen's crises. More than 10,000 people have been killed since the conflict erupted in 2014 when Shiite Houthi rebels launched a campaign to capture the capital, Sanaa. In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition launched a deadly campaign against the rebels, one that has been widely criticized by human rights groups for its high civilian death toll.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

Fighting keeps food from the famished

The conflict has prevented humanitarian aid from reaching large parts of the civilian population, resulting in 60 percent of the country's 28 million people being classified as "food insecure." At least 2.2 million children are acutely malnourished, according to the UN World Food Program. UN chief Antonio Guterres has urged the Security Council to pressure warring parties to allow aid in.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

Displacement: Converging crises

More than 2 million people have been displaced by conflict, including marginalized communities such as the "Muhammasheen," a minority tribe that originally migrated from Africa. Despite the civil war, many flee conflict in Somalia and head to Yemen, marking the convergence of two major migration crises in the Middle East nation. Yemen hosts more than 255,000 Somali refugees, according to UNHCR.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

Cholera: A deadly epidemic

As of October 2017, the number of suspected cholera cases exceeded more than 750,000, and at least 2,135 people had died from the waterborne bacterial infection in Yemen in ten months, said the WHO. Although cholera can be easily treated, it can kill within hours when untreated. By October 2018, over 10,000 cases of cholera were being treated weekly.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

Unsuspecting victims of the'war on terror'

In Yemen, violence goes beyond civil conflict: It is considered a strategic front in the war on terrorism. The country serves as the operational base for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, dubbed the "most dangerous" terrorist group before the rise of the "Islamic State." The US routinely uses drones to target al-Qaida leadership. However, civilians have often been killed in the operations.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

Children's fate: Future marred by tragedy

In a country paralyzed by conflict, children are one of the most at-risk groups in Yemen. More than 11 million children require humanitarian aid, according to the UN humanitarian coordination agency. The country's education system is "on the brink of collapse," while children are dying of "preventable causes like malnutrition, diarrhea and respiratory tract infections," the agency said in October.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

Peace: An elusive future

Despite several attempts at UN-backed peace talks, the conflict continues to rage on. Saudi Arabia has vowed to continue supporting the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. On the other hand, Houthi rebels have demanded the formation of a unity government in order to move forward on a political solution. But neither side appears ready to compromise.

Read more: Yemen: Houthi drone 'hits Saudi arms depot'

Wednesday's attack came just hours before Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe landed in Tehran — seeking to ease tensions between the US and the Iranian regime. Riyadh and Washington accuse Tehran of supporting armed militias across the Middle East.

Increasing tension

Yemen has been torn apart by a protracted civil war between the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the Shiite Houthi rebels. In support of the Hadi government, Riyadh launched an air campaign against the Houthis in March 2015. Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of backing the rebels, who have made significant territorial gains in the impoverished Middle Eastern country.

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Read more: Yemenis rally in Sanaa to support Houthis on conflict anniversary

At least 10,000 people have been killed and more than 3 million people have been displaced since the start of the conflict. Around 80% of Yemen's population is in urgent need of aid, and millions of people have problems accessing water, according to the UN.

A Houthi military spokesman said Wednesday the attack on Abha airport was a response to the Saudi coalition's "crimes" against Yemen.

"The most modern American systems could not intercept the missiles," he said in comments carried by the rebels' media center.

International pressure has mounted for the two sides to end the conflict. The United States has called for a ceasefire and reduced some of its logistical aid for the Saudi coalition, while Iran has also signaled support for the peace talks.

Read more: Islamic bloc supports Palestinians, backs Saudis in Iran conflict

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02:05 mins.
DW News | 10.11.2017

Tensions run high between Saudi Arabia and Iran

shs/msh  (Reuters, AP)

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