JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia on Thursday vowed to take “appropriate” action to confront and deter attacks by Houthi militias in Yemen.
It came a day after 26 people, including women and children, were injured in a missile strike on the civilian Abha Airport in the south of the Kingdom, for which the Houthis claimed responsibility.
“We will confront the Houthi militias’ crimes with unwavering resolve,” said Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman. “Their targeting of a civilian airport exposes to the world the recklessness of Iran’s escalation and the danger it poses to regional security and stability.
“The targeting of Abha Airport by Iranian-backed Houthi militias, injuring innocent civilians of various nationalities, is a continuation of their immoral and criminal behavior that is in line with the malign behavior of their patrons. I pray for a quick recovery for the wounded.”
The Houthi militias fired 226 ballistic missiles toward Saudi Arabia between March 26, 2015 and June 10, 2019.
“Appropriate measures will be taken to confront and deter these terrorist militias,” said Prince Khalid. “We will stand against all those that aim to inflict harm on our security and interests, and we will continue to adhere to all international laws and norms to protect regional security and stability.
“For 40 years, the Iranian regime has been spreading chaos, death and destruction by sponsoring and financing terrorist organizations, including the Houthis. The Iranian regime is the only party in the region that has been pursuing reckless escalation, through the use of ballistic missiles and UAVS (unmanned aerial vehicles) to directly target civilian installations and innocent civilians.
“The continuation of the Iranian regime’s aggression and reckless escalation, whether directly or through its militias, will result in grave consequences. The international community must carry out its responsibility to avoid this outcome,” the minister added.
Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation authorities said operations and air traffic at Abha Airport had returned to normal by Thursday morning. Thousands of passengers pass through the airport each day.
The missile strike was condemned by nations and officials around the world, with the US Embassy in Saudi Arabia denouncing it in the strongest terms as an attack that “targeted innocent civilians.”
The UAE said it was proof of attempts by the Houthis to “undermine regional security.” Bahrain said it “strongly condemned” the attack, describing it as a “terrorist and cowardly criminal act against innocent civilians.”
The day before the attack, a spokesman for the Houthi military warned that the group planned to target every airport in Saudi Arabia, and that the coming days would reveal “big surprises.”
A Houthi claim that it struck the airport with a sophisticated cruise missile was dismissed as “misinformation spread by Houthi media and Iranian social media,” by security analyst Dr. Theodore Karasik, a senior adviser at Gulf State Analytics in Washington, DC.
“The interception rate by Saudi PAC-3 air defense is extremely high,” he added. “But Iranian-supplied and supported Houthi drones are another matter; they deliver an explosive charge either on the target or above, raining down debris.”
The Houthis last month stepped up attacks following a lull last year ahead of UN-led peace efforts. The coalition has responded by carrying out air strikes on Houthi-held Sanaa.