Abu Dhabi- Yemeni military on Monday struck UAE and Saudi Arabia for the second time in a week in retaliation for recent deadly air strikes by Saudi led coalition that left over 100 civilians dead in the impoverished Arab country.
The Yemeni drone and missile strikes stoked tensions in the oil-exporting region even as the U.S. forces stationed in the region said they had intercepted the missiles fired from Yemen.
Oil gained, remaining near the highest levels since 2014 as geopolitical risk and the prospect of improving demand pushed crude to five straight weekly gains. Brent crude traded near $90 a barrel on Monday after reports of the attack.
Shrapnel fell over scattered areas of Abu Dhabi after military defenses repelled two ballistic missiles, but there was no damage or loss of life, the UAE Defense Ministry said in a statement. The UAE said it had destroyed the launchers in Yemen’s northern Al Jawf region, more than 1,270 kilometers (790 miles) from Abu Dhabi, immediately after the missiles were fired and was “taking all necessary procedures to protect the country.”
U.S. military forces “successfully reacted to multiple inbound threats” during an attack near Abu Dhabi in the early hours of Monday, the U.S. Air Force said.
The UAE-based Al Dhafra Air Base, home to the U.S. Air Force’s 380th Air Expeditionary Wing and other U.S. forces, “remain in a heightened state of alert following the attack,” Brig. Gen. Andrew Clark said in an emailed statement.
The strike comes barely a week after Abu Dhabi suffered its first deadly attack in Yemen’s seven-year conflict, with the Yemen’s military allied to Houthi dominated Ansarullah group warning international investors to leave and vowing to expand their range of targets in a country that’s built its economy and attracted millions of expatriates on the back of its reputation as a safe harbor in a volatile region.
The U.S. embassy in Abu Dhabi issued a rare alert urging its “citizens in the United Arab Emirates to maintain a high level of security awareness” and offering detailed advice on how to cope with missile strikes.
The escalation comes at a critical time for regional diplomacy; Iran’s longtime support of the Sanaa government means the incidents could upset fragile diplomatic efforts to ease frictions with Gulf Arab neighbors as well as broader negotiations to restore Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Military spokesman Yahya Saree said in a televised speech on its Al-Masirah TV Monday that the group targeted the Al Dhafra military air base in Abu Dhabi and attacked several targets in the UAE’s commercial capital of Dubai using drones. There was no confirmation of any attack on Dubai.
Last week’s missile and drone attack on Abu Dhabi killed three people and wounded six, igniting a fire at the airport and setting fuel trucks ablaze.
Drones have made it possible to conduct small, targeted assaults that slip through multibillion-dollar defense systems designed to deter more advanced weapons. The physical damage — both on land and at sea — is usually minimal but the reputational impact could still be huge for the UAE, OPEC’s third biggest oil producer.
More than 80% of the UAE’s population is comprised of foreigners, with the emirate of Dubai establishing itself as a key global trade hub and home to one of the world’s busiest international airports.
Over the weekend, the UAE grounded all private drones and light sports aircraft for a month following what it termed as “misuse” of permits and “trespassing” into prohibited areas.
“Sensitivity to attacks is high in the UAE given their absence historically and the high contribution of tourism to the economy,” said Hasnain Malik, the Dubai-based head of research at Tellimer, putting the tourism industry’s direct contribution to the UAE economy at about 5%. This “usually implies a figure at least double this in terms of indirect contribution, and likely multiples of this in the less oil-rich emirates such as Dubai.”
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