UAE intercepts a Houthi missile as Israeli president visits

CAIRO, Jan 30 (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates said on Monday it had intercepted a ballistic missile that was fired by Yemen’s Houthi as the Gulf state hosted Israel’s President Isaac Herzog in a first such visit.

The Emirati defense ministry said the missile was intercepted and destroyed, adding that its debris fell on an uninhabited area. It did not say whether the missile was targeting the UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi or Dubai, the Middle East’s business and tourism hub.

The UAE civil aviation authority said air traffic in the Gulf country was going as usual and all flights operations were operating normally despite the attack, the state news agency (WAM) reported.

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The UAE is part of a Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen in a seven-year-old conflict that has killed tens of thousands and pushed the impoverished country to the verge of starvation.

Yemen’s Houthi military spokesman said late on Sunday on Twitter that the group would disclose within hours details of a new military operation deep inside the UAE. He gave no further details.

The Houthis launched a deadly strike on Abu Dhabi on Jan. 17 and a second foiled missile assault on Monday, after UAE-backed Yemeni militias intervened along frontlines where the Houthis had made inroads last year. read more

The UAE’s defense ministry said coalition warplanes had destroyed missile launchers that were located in Yemen.

Last week, the Gulf state’s public prosecutor said it had summoned several people for sharing videos showing defense systems intercepting a previous missile attack by the Houthis. There were no social media posts on this interception.

Monday’s attack came as Herzog discussed security and bilateral relations with the UAE’s de facto ruler, Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in Abu Dhabi. read more

Duke spent the night in Abu Dhabi, an Israeli official told Reuters. He will continue his UAE visit despite the Houthi attack, his office said.

The United States condemned the attack.

“While Israel’s president is visiting the UAE to build bridges and promote stability across the region, the Houthis continue to launch attacks that threaten civilians,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a tweet.

The UAE, along with Bahrain, signed US-brokered normalization agreements with Israel, dubbed the “Abraham Accords”, in 2020. read more

The UAE has significantly reduced its military presence in Yemen since 2019, but it still holds sway via large local forces that it has built and armed.

The war in Yemen has escalated dramatically over the last months with the coalition intensifying air strikes on Yemeni cities, and the Houthis stepping up cross-border attacks.

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Reporting by Omar Fahmy and Mahmoud Mourad and Dan Williams, additional reporting by Lilian Wagdy and Alaa Swilam writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Sandra Maler & Simon Cameron-Moore

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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