Yemen: Houthi drone 'hits Saudi arms depot'

Iran-aligned Houthi rebels say they have flown a bomb-laden drone into an airport with a military base in Saudi Arabia. This comes amid a recent spike in tensions between the regional rivals.

Houthi-run Masirah TV said on Tuesday that the Yemeni rebel group had launched a drone attack on Najran airport in Saudi Arabia which caused a fire to break out at the facility.

The airport is located in the city of Najran on the Saudi-Yemen border, an area that has repeatedly been targeted by Houthi rebels.

Saudi government spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki said the Houthis "had tried to target" a civilian site in Najran and there would be a "strong deterrent" to such attacks. 

Regional rivals

Last Tuesday, Riyadh claimed that two oil pumping stations — which maintain the flow rates of a major Saudi oil pipeline — were hit by armed drones, resulting in a fire at one of the stations and a temporary shutting of the oil line as a precaution. 

Masirah TV said after the May 14 pipeline attack that the Iran-linked Houthi group had launched drone attacks on Saudi installations in response to what it called Saudi aggression and a blockade on Yemen. A Saudi-led alliance has been at war with the Houthis and their allies since 2015. Saudi Arabia and Iran are also on opposite sides of the war in Syria.

Read more: In Yemen war, coalition forces rely on German arms and technology

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.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia claimed that two of its oil tankers were targeted in a "sabotage attack" off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE is investigating the alleged attack near its waters, which also targeted two other tankers.  

Tehran denied involvement in either operation.

kw/rt (AP, Reuters)

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