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UAE Intercepts 2 Missiles     01/24 06:48

   

   DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- The United Arab Emirates intercepted two 
ballistic missiles fired by Yemen's Houthi rebels over the skies of Abu Dhabi 
early Monday, authorities said, the second attack in a week that targeted the 
Emirati capital.

   The missile fire further escalates tensions across the Persian Gulf, which 
previously had seen a series of assaults near -- but never indisputably on -- 
Emirati soil. It comes during Yemen's yearslong war and the collapse of Iran's 
nuclear deal with world powers. American troops at Al-Dhafra Air Base in the 
capital took shelter in bunkers during the attack.

   The attacks threaten the business-friendly, tourism-focused efforts of the 
Emirates, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula also home 
to Dubai. For years, the country has marketed itself as a safe corner of an 
otherwise-dangerous neighborhood.

   Videos on social media showed the sky over Abu Dhabi light up before dawn 
Monday, with what appeared to be interceptor missiles racing into the clouds to 
target the incoming fire. Two explosions later thundered through the city. The 
videos corresponded to known features of Abu Dhabi.

   The state-run WAM news agency said that missile fragments fell harmlessly 
over Abu Dhabi.

   The Emirates is "ready to deal with any threats and ... it takes all 
necessary measures to protect the state from all attacks," WAM quoted the UAE 
Defense Ministry as saying.

   The missile fire disrupted traffic into Abu Dhabi International Airport, 
home to the long-haul carrier Etihad, for about an hour after the attack.

   Houthi military spokesman Yehia Sarei claimed the attack in a televised 
statement, saying the rebels targeted several sites in the UAE with both 
Zulfiqar ballistic missiles and drones, including Al-Dhafra Air Base. He warned 
the UAE would continue to be a target "as long as attacks on the Yemeni people 
continue."

   "We warn foreign companies and investors to leave the Emirates!" Sarei 
shouted from a podium. "This has become an unsafe country!"

   The Dubai Financial Market closed down nearly 2% after the attack, with 
nearly every company trading down. The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange also fell 
slightly.

   At Al-Dhafra, which hosts both American and British forces, U.S. troops took 
shelter in bunkers during the attack, the U.S. Air Force's Mideast command 
said. Al-Dhafra is home to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing and has seen armed 
drones and F-35 stealth fighters stationed there.

   "U.S. military forces successfully reacted to multiple inbound threats 
during an attack near Abu Dhabi," the Air Force said, without elaborating. 
Videos on social media suggested outgoing interceptor fire came from the base.

   The U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi later issued a security alert to Americans 
living in the UAE, warning citizens to "maintain a high level of security 
awareness." The alert included instructions on how to cope with missile 
attacks, something unheard of previously in the UAE, a tourist destination home 
to skyscraper-studded Dubai and its long-haul carrier Emirates.

   "If these types of attacks end up occurring on a weekly basis as they do in 
the Saudi Arabia ... that will shift the perception of the threat landscape in 
the UAE," said Torbjorn Soltvedt, an analyst with risk consultancy Verisk 
Maplecroft. "The concern is now the contagion is going to be broader if we 
start to see attacks against civilian infrastructure."

   The Emirati Defense Ministry later tweeted out a black-and-white video that 
it said showed an F-16 striking the ballistic missile launcher used in the Abu 
Dhabi attack. The Defense Ministry identified the site as being near al-Jawaf, 
a Yemeni province around 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) southwest of Abu Dhabi.

   The state-linked newspaper The National in Abu Dhabi identified the F-16 as 
Emirati, raising the question of how directly involved the UAE now is in the 
fighting after withdrawing most of its ground forces in 2019. The Emiratis 
continue to back militias on the ground, including the Giants Brigade, which 
has made advances against the Houthis in recent weeks.

   The Zulfiqar ballistic missile, believed to have a range of 1,500 kilometers 
(930 miles), is modeled after the Iranian Qiam missile, according to a report 
by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Iran denies directly 
arming the Houthis, though United Nations experts, Western nations and analysts 
have linked weapons in the rebels' arsenal back to Tehran.

   "It's got the classic elements of the coercive strategy," said Tim Wright, a 
research analyst at IISS. "In this case, it's to make them back down on their 
support" of the Giants Brigade.

   The attack came a week after Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed an attack on the 
Emirati capital targeting the airport and an Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. fuel 
depot in the Mussafah neighborhood with drones and cruise missiles. That attack 
on the fuel depot killed three people and wounded six others.

   New, high-resolution satellite photographs obtained by The Associated Press 
from Planet Labs PBC showed repair work still ongoing at the fuel depot 
Saturday. Emirati officials have not released images of the attacked sites, nor 
allowed journalists to see them.

   In recent days, a Saudi-led coalition that the UAE backs unleashed punishing 
airstrikes targeting Yemen, knocking the Arab world's poorest country off the 
internet and killing over 80 people at a detention center.

   The Houthis had threatened to take revenge against the Emirates and Saudi 
Arabia over those attacks. On Sunday, the Saudi-led coalition said a 
Houthi-launched ballistic missile landed in an industrial area in Jizan, Saudi 
Arabia. The missile tore a deep crater in the ground, television footage 
showed, and slightly wounded two foreigners of Bangladeshi and Sudanese 
nationality.

   The hard-line Iranian daily newspaper Kayhan, whose editor-in-chief was 
appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, just Sunday published a 
front-page article quoting Houthi officials that the UAE would be attacked 
again with a headline: "Evacuate Emirati commercial towers."

   The newspaper in 2017 had faced a two-day publication ban after it ran a 
headline saying Dubai was the "next target" for the Houthis.

 
 
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