Houthi rebel attacks: a new development in Yemen’s ‘festering’ war

The conflict escalated in January when a Houthi drone attack hit oil facilities in the UAE

A destroyed building
A building thought to be a prison that was destroyed in a Saudi-led airstrike in the Houthi stronghold of Saada in northern Yemen, on 27 January
(Image credit: AFP via Getty Images)

The devastating seven-year conflict in Yemen has entered a “dangerous new phase” in recent weeks, said Al-Araby (Lusail). A coalition led by Saudi Arabia and including other Sunni Arab states, such as the United Arab Emirates, has been fighting Houthi insurgents – Shias who are backed by Iran – since 2015, months after the Houthis had seized Yemen’s capital, Sana’a.

But on 17 January, the conflict escalated when a Houthi drone attack hit oil facilities and Abu Dhabi’s airport in the UAE. The strike killed three people; it was the first time the Houthis had successfully hit a target there. A week later, the UAE said it had shot down two more ballistic missiles fired from Yemen: witnesses saw “bright flashes” light up the night sky.

The coalition forces responded by unleashing a ferocious wave of air strikes in Yemen, said Al-Thawra (Sana’a). The deadliest, on a prison in Saada on 21 January, killed more than 80 people and injured hundreds – the worst count of civilian casualties in Yemen in three years.

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Blame here lies squarely with the Houthis, said The National (Abu Dhabi). The conflict they started by overthrowing “an internationally recognised government” in 2014 has already claimed 377,000 lives, and left 24 million people in need of humanitarian aid. It has also jeopardised global oil supplies: Houthis have targeted Saudi oil infrastructure and even hijacked tankers; their latest attacks sent oil prices to a seven-year high.

The UAE is reeling from these strikes, said Giorgio Cafiero on TRT World (Istanbul). Abu Dhabi depends heavily on its status as a “safe tourist destination” and a hub for global commerce; the recent attacks on it represented a huge blow. The US is considering designating the Houthis as a terror group again, having reversed that position last year to keep diplomatic efforts alive and deliver aid.

Whatever the wrongs of the Houthis, the Saudis have behaved abominably, said Dawn (Karachi). They have unleashed terrible force since first invading Yemen to depose the Houthis. Schools and weddings have been attacked, and over four million people have been internally displaced.

The West should be helping calm the situation, said Shuaib Almosawa and Sarah Leah Whitson in The Washington Post. Instead, it’s making it worse. The Biden administration is still signing off billions in arms sales to Saudi forces, and helping them militarily. The helpless and desperate people of Yemen, meanwhile, are left to suffer the consequences of their country’s “festering” and hopeless war.

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