SAT 6 - 6 - 2020
Date: Jun 15, 2019
Source: The Daily Star
Saudi Arabia intercepts five Yemen rebel drones in new airport attack
Agence France Presse
RIYADH: Saudi forces on Friday intercepted five drones launched by Iran-backed Yemeni rebels, the Arab military coalition said, in a second assault on an airport in the kingdom's southwest in two days.

The drones targeted Abha airport, where a rebel missile Wednesday left 26 civilians wounded, and the nearby city of Khamis Mushait, which houses a major airbase, the coalition said in a statement released by Saudi state media.

"The royal Saudi air defense force and air force successfully intercepted and destroyed five unmanned drone aircraft launched by Houthi militia towards Abha international airport and Khamis Mushait," the coalition statement said without reporting any casualties.

The airport was operating normally with no fights disrupted, the statement added.

Houthi-run Al-Masirah TV reported earlier that the rebels had carried out drone attacks on Abha Airport.

The UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, condemned the attack on Twitter, saying the "blatant attack on civilians" was only the latest in a spate of rebel assaults "undermining the UN's political work & sending a message of continuing violence & hostility."

The Oman TV News website said Oman is following with "great concern the military escalation," citing a Foreign Ministry source.

"The sultanate urges [the parties] to avoid escalation [...] and to focus in the next phase on the political process" to end the war in Yemen, the source said.

The rebels, who have faced persistent coalition bombing since March 2015 that has exacted a heavy civilian death toll, have stepped up missile and drone attacks across the border in recent weeks.

Wednesday's missile strike hit the civil airport in the mountain resort of Abha, which is a popular summer getaway for Saudis seeking escape from the searing heat of Riyadh or Jeddah.

During a media tour of the airport Thursday, Saudi authorities said they had closed a part of the arrival lounge after the missile tore a hole in the roof and disrupted flights for several hours.

The area was covered in bamboo scaffolding and littered with concrete debris and shards of broken glass, AFP saw.

Two passengers, including an Indian national, who suffered mild injuries recalled pandemonium and screams after a loud explosion triggered a blaze, leaving the lounge covered in smoke.

A Saudi civil aviation official said authorities were still investigating rebel claims that they fired a cruise missile at the airport.

If confirmed that would represent a major leap in the rebels' military capability, experts say.

The official also confirmed that it had not been intercepted by the kingdom's Patriot anti-missile batteries.

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