Saudi Arabia intercepts five drones in new airport attack
RIYADH: Saudi forces on Friday intercepted five drones launched by Yemeni rebels, a Riyadh-led military coalition said, in a second assault on an airport in the kingdom’s southwest in two days.
The drones targeted Abha airport, where a rebel missile on Wednesday left 26 civilians wounded, and the nearby city of Khamis Mushait, which houses a major airbase, the coalition said in a statement released by Saudi state media.
The latest raids come amid spiralling regional tensions after Washington accused Iran of carrying out attacks that left two tankers ablaze in the Gulf of Oman, the second such incident in a month in the strategic sea lane.
“The royal Saudi air defence force and air force successfully intercepted and destroyed five unmanned drone aircraft launched by Huthi militia towards Abha international airport and Khamis Mushait,” the coalition statement said without reporting any casualties.
The airport was operating normally with no flights disrupted, the statement added.
Huthi-run Al-Masirah TV reported earlier that the Iran-linked rebels had carried out drone attacks on Abha airport.
The rebels, who have faced persistent coalition bombing since March 2015 that has exacted a heavy civilian death toll, have stepped up missile and drone attacks across the border in recent weeks and warned that coalition airports were valid targets.
The latest attacks could prompt an escalation in the coalition’s bombing campaign as it vowed after Wednesday’s missile strike to “take stern action” to deter the rebels and protect civilians.
The missile struck the airport in the mountain resort of Abha, which is a popular summer getaway for Saudis seeking escape from the searing heat of Riyadh or Jeddah.
During a media tour of the airport on Thursday, Saudi authorities said they had closed a part of the arrival lounge after the missile tore a hole in the roof and disrupted flights for several hours.
The area was covered in bamboo scaffolding and littered with concrete debris and shards of broken glass, AFP saw.
Two passengers, including an Indian national, who suffered mild injuries recalled pandemonium and screams after a loud explosion triggered a blaze, leaving the lounge covered in smoke.