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UAE intercepts a Houthi missile as Israeli president visits

Israeli President Isaac Herzog meets with Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan in Abu Dhabi
Israeli President Isaac Herzog meets with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates January 30, 2022. Mohamed Al Hammadi/Ministry of Presidential Affairs/WAM/Handout via REUTERS

January 30, 2022

CAIRO (Reuters) -The United Arab Emirates said on Monday it had intercepted a ballistic missile that was fired by Yemen’s Houthi as the Gulf state hosted Israel’s President Isaac Herzog in a first such visit.

The Emirati defence ministry said the missile was intercepted and destroyed, adding that its debris fell on an uninhabited area. It did not say whether the missile was targeting the UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi or Dubai, the Middle East’s business and tourism hub.

The UAE civil aviation authority said air traffic in the Gulf country was going as usual and all flights operations were operating normally despite the attack, the state news agency (WAM) reported.

The UAE is part of a Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen in a seven-year-old conflict that has killed tens of thousands and pushed the impoverished country to the verge of starvation.

Yemen’s Houthi military spokesman said late on Sunday on Twitter that the group would disclose within hours details of a new military operation deep inside the UAE. He gave no further details.

The Houthis launched a deadly strike on Abu Dhabi on Jan. 17 and a second foiled missile assault on Monday, after UAE-backed Yemeni militias intervened along frontlines where the Houthis had made inroads last year.

The UAE’s defence ministry said coalition warplanes had destroyed missile launchers that were located in Yemen.

Last week, the Gulf state’s public prosecutor said it had summoned several people for sharing videos showing defence systems intercepting a previous missile attack by the Houthis. There were no social media posts on this interception.

Monday’s attack came as Herzog discussed security and bilateral relations with the UAE’s de facto ruler, Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in Abu Dhabi.

Herzog spent the night in Abu Dhabi, an Israeli official told Reuters. He will continue his UAE visit despite the Houthi attack, his office said.

The UAE, along with Bahrain, signed U.S.-brokered normalisation agreements with Israel, dubbed the “Abraham Accords”, in 2020.

The UAE has reduced significantly its military presence in Yemen since 2019, but it still holds sway via large local forces that it has built and armed.

The war in Yemen has escalated dramatically over the last months with the coalition intensifying air strikes on Yemeni cities, and the Houthis stepping up cross-border attacks.

(Reporting by Omar Fahmy and Mahmoud Mourad and Dan Williams, writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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