Eleven people were killed in air strikes on Yemen’s rebel-held capital, a witness and medical sources told AFP on Tuesday, as the Saudi-led coalition hit back after a deadly attack on Abu Dhabi that sent Gulf tensions soaring.
Residents were combing the rubble for survivors after the strikes levelled two houses in Sanaa, hours after the Huthi rebels claimed a drone and missile attack that killed three people in the Emirati capital.
“Eleven people were killed. The search is still going on for survivors in the rubble,” said Akram al-Ahdal, a relative of some of the victims. A medical source confirmed the death toll.
The UAE, part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-backed rebels, had vowed a tough response to Monday’s attack, the first deadly assault acknowledged inside its borders and claimed by the Yemeni insurgents.
The coalition launched fresh strikes “targeting Huthi camps and headquarters” in Sanaa on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s state-owned Al-Ekhbariya TV tweeted.
Crude prices soared to seven-year highs partly fuelled by the attacks, which exploded fuel tanks near storage facilities of oil giant ADNOC, killing three. The Huthis later warned UAE residents to avoid “vital installations”.
Yemen, whose near seven-year war has killed hundreds of thousands, occupies a strategic position on the Red Sea, a vital conduit for oil from the resource-rich Gulf.
After the attacks, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed agreed in a phone call to “jointly stand up to these acts of aggression”, UAE state media said.
– ‘No end in sight’ –
The rebel attack opened a new front in the Yemen war and further reduced hopes of any resolution to the conflict, which has displaced millions in what was already the Arabian peninsula’s poorest country.
The United States pledged to hold the Huthis accountable, while Britain, France and the European Union also condemned the assault.
“These attacks threaten the security of the United Arab Emirates and regional stability,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.
The targeting of Abu Dhabi follows a surge in fighting in Yemen, including advances by the UAE-trained troops of the Giants Brigade, who drove the rebels out of Shabwa province.
The defeat dealt a blow to the Huthis’ months-long campaign to capture neighbouring Marib, the government’s last stronghold in the north.
Earlier this month, the Huthis hijacked the UAE-flagged Rwabee in the Red Sea, saying it was carrying military equipment — a claim disputed by the coalition and the UAE. The ship’s 11 international crew are being held captive.
Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 when the Huthis seized the capital Sanaa, prompting Saudi-led forces to intervene to prop up the government the following year.
The conflict has been a catastrophe for millions of its citizens who have fled their homes, with many on the brink of famine, in what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The UN has estimated the war killed 377,000 people by the end of 2021, both directly and indirectly through hunger and disease.
“There is no end in sight for the Yemen war,” Elisabeth Kendall, a researcher at the University of Oxford’s Pembroke College, told AFP.
“Rather, the conflict is escalating and new fronts are opening up, both domestically and now regionally.”