DUBAI: Houthi insurgents on Thursday threatened to attack civilian targets in Saudi Arabia and the UAE in response to Riyadh’s call to put Yemen’s Al-Hodeida port under UN administration.
In a televised speech, Houthi leader Abdel-Malek Al-Houthi said his militia’s ballistic missiles were capable of reaching the United Arab Emirates' capital of Abu Dhabi and anywhere inside Saudi Arabia.
"Today the port of Hodeidah is being threatened and we cannot turn a blind eye to that," Abdel-Malek said.
"If the Saudi regime and with a green light from the US attack Hodeidah then we have to take steps that we haven't taken before,” he said.
The Iran-backed Houthi rebels had repeatedly launched missiles and rockets toward targets in Saudi Arabia, including two that Saudi security officials had said were aimed at the holy city of Makkah. In both instances, the missiles were shot down by Saudi Air Defenses Forces before they could cause any damage.
A number of rocket attacks aimed at targets across Saudi Arabia’s southern border with Yemen had resulted in deaths and injuries, both involving military and civilians.
Abdel Malek also said that his group had successfully test fired a missile toward Abu Dhabi earlier this month and said the UAE was no longer a safe country.
He gave no further details and there has been no acknowledgement by the UAE of any missiles landing on their territory.
But hours after the threat UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash took to Twitter to issue a defiant response to the threats, saying that the UAE was not intimidated.
“Al Houthis’ comments threatening the UAE and its capital are tangible proof of the need for the Decisive Storm (operation),” Gargash tweeted.
“Iran’s militias have vile objectives and represent a real threat,” he added.
Gargash went on to add: “We are not afraid of the Houthi threats and stupidity. It reveals the desperation of those who defend fragmented illusions, and it certainly reveals the intentions for the Arabian Gulf region security and stability.”
تهديدات الحوثي وحماقته لا تخيفنا وتكشف عن يأس لمن يدافع عن أوهام تشظت، ولكنها تكشف يقينا عن النوايا المبيتة لأمن وإستقرار الخليج العربي.
— د. أنور قرقاش (@AnwarGargash) September 14, 2017
Yemen President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi's government, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, is fighting to drive the Houthis out of cities they seized in 2014 and 2015 in a rapid rise to national power.
The United Nations had proposed that the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, where 80 percent of Yemen’s food imports arrive, should be handed to a neutral party, to smoothen the flow of humanitarian relief and prevent the port from being engulfed by Yemen's two-year-old war.
The government of President Mansour Hadi has accused the Houthis of using the port to smuggle weapons and of collecting customs duties on goods, the proceeds of which they use to finance the war. The Houthis deny this.