The Middle East is a highly-complicated and fragile region. In recent weeks, the UAE has been under several drone and missile attacks from Yemen’s Houthi rebels. In response, the Saudi-led coalition – of which the UAE is a member – has stepped up attacks targeting the civilian population.
The conflict has been ongoing since 2014 when the Houthis seized control of capital, Sanaa, and forced the president to flee into exile. In 2015, a Saudi-led coalition intervened militarily to fight the Houthis and reverse the growing Iranian influence in the region. The conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of Yemenis and triggered one of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
Over the years, the Houthis have launched numerous missile and drone strikes on Saudi Arabia and attacked oil facilities. In recent week, the Houthis have increased their reach as far as Abu Dhabi which has been the target of a drone strike. Another ballistic missile was intercepted over the area while the Israeli president was visiting the Gulf state for the first time ever.
The Houthis last targeted UAE in 2018 while fighting over the Red Sea port city of Hudaidah. Since then, the UAE reduced its military presence but has largely supported Yemeni forces. The tables changed in December last year when UAE backed militias, dealing a blow to the Houthis. The conflict escalated in recent weeks and threatens the entire region.
On Jan 17, UAE capital Abu Dhabi was targeted in a drone strike claimed by the Houthis which killed three people. They also targeted an under-construction building at the airport. Coalition forces retaliated and intensified military targets linked to Houthis. The United States has now agreed to send its warship and fighter jets to assist the UAE against Houthi attacks.
Yemen is the poorest country in the region and the conflict has affected the civilian population. The air raids have reportedly hit hospitals, an airport, water facilities, schools and telecom infrastructure. A recent strike at detention centre killed eighty people and wiped off internet access to half the nation. Oil prices have also surged to a seven-year high due to regional tensions.
The violence is set to escalate further as the Houthis threaten to target companies in UAE. More than five million are on the brink of famine and another four million have been displaced. The conflict has reached a stalemate and the situation is becoming more dangerous with no end in sight.