By Arab News
By Saeed Al Batati
Twelve civilians were injured by a drone attack targeting Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport on Thursday, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen said Saudi air defenses thwarted a cross-border attack at 12:05 p.m that involved a booby-trapped drone launched by the Iran-backed Houthi militia in a deliberate attempt to target civilians at the airport.
Shrapnel rained down when the drone was intercepted and fell inside the airport grounds, coalition spokesman Brig. Gen. Turki Al-Maliki said, and part of a glass facade was damaged. Two Saudi citizens, four Bangladeshis, three Nepalese, an Indian, a Filipino, and a Sri Lankan were injured.
Al-Maliki said the attack on the airport, civilian travelers and workers constituted a war crime.
Meanwhile, King Salman received a call from US President Joe Biden on Wednesday, during which the two leaders stressed the need to strengthen cooperation and achieve stability in the region. The continuing attacks by the Houthi militia against civilians in the Kingdom were also on the agenda.
The king praised the US commitment to supporting the Kingdom in the defense of its land and citizens. He also said that Saudi Arabia supports Washington’s efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
In another development in Yemen, at least 200 Houthis were reportedly killed in the past 24 hours during consecutive failed attacks to break a siege by Yemeni government troops on pockets of rebel fighters inside the city of Haradh.
A Yemeni military official told Arab News on Thursday that the militia had mounted many attacks on troops outside the city, which is in the northern province of Hajjah, in an attempt to free hundreds of its fighters.
“The Houthis are aggressively attacking Haradh to free senior military leaders and foreign experts and fighters besieged in the city,” said the official, who asked not to be named.
Backed by coalition air support, government troops on Feb. 4 took control of a strategic mountain range on the eastern edges of Haradh and later announced they had surrounded Houthi fighters. The government troops pushed into the city when Houthis refused to surrender, triggering heavy fighting that left dozens of the rebels dead. The Houthis planted landmines and booby-traps to obstruct the advancing forces.
The city is strategically important because is close to the border with Saudi Arabia and the location of the largest border crossing. Regaining control of the city would pave the way for the reopening of the crossing, which has been closed for seven years, which would offer new sources of revenues for the cash-strapped government of Yemen.
Yemen’s Army and the coalition could also transport military equipment and fighters from the Saudi side of the border to help reinforce government troops battling the Houthis in nearby districts.
Yemen’s Defense Ministry announced on Wednesday that its forces had seized control of Al-Hejah mountain range, east of Haradh city.
On Thursday, the Yemeni military official said the Houthis have been using more advanced explosives-rigged, unmanned aerial vehicles than usual during the fighting in Haradh.
“We shot down two drones; one on Thursday and the other on Wednesday,” he said. “Those are different from other kinds of drones used in the past in terms of shape, the number of propellers and their cargos.”
In Marib province, meanwhile, government troops advanced into a new district as part of a large military operation to weaken the Houthis, who have been waging a deadly offensive on the central city of Marib since early last year.
Officials said that army troops and allied tribesmen seized control of small areas in the district of Majazer, north of Marib, opening up a new front in the oil-rich province to push the Houthi further away from Marib.
When the coalition redeployed hundreds of troops from the country’s west coast to central provinces late last year, government troops took the initiative in fighting and managed to thwart Houthi attempts to control Marib city.
The Yemeni Landmine Monitor, an organization in Yemen that documents landmine victims, said that 36 civilians, including six specialists in removing mines, were killed and 35 injured in January as a result of the thousands of landmines planted by the Houthis in many provinces.
When the government’s Giant Brigade launched an offensive on Shabwa and Marib, the Houthis deployed large numbers of landmines to block the assault. Most of the civilian casualties of the Houthi landmines were among displaced people.