Houthi attacks on Saudi civilian airport inflame regional tensions
A Tuesday (July 2nd) attack by Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) on a civilian airport in southern Saudi Arabia comes amid heightened regional tensions with Iran.
The cross-border attack, which wounded nine civilians, is the latest in a string of Iran-linked attacks on civilian targets in the kingdom, including previous attacks on the same airport, the Arab coalition said.
"The terrorist attack on Abha airport... led to the injury of nine civilians, including eight Saudi citizens and one carrying an Indian passport," the Arab coalition said in a Tuesday statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency.
Earlier, the Houthis said they had "launched a wide operation" targeting Abha international airport with drones, according to their Al-Masira television channel.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly accused Iran of supplying sophisticated weapons to the Houthis, who have stepped up missile and drone attacks across the border in recent weeks. Tehran denies the charge.
Saudi forces on June 14th intercepted five drones targeting Abha airport and the nearby city of Khamis Mushayt launched by the Houthis, the Arab coalition said.
Two days earlier, on June 12th, a Houthi missile attack on Abha airport wounded 26 civilians, drawing promises of "stern action" from the Arab coalition.
And on June 23rd, another Houthi attack on Abha airport killed a Syrian national and wounded 21 other civilians, the Arab coalition said.
On May 24th, the Saudi air force shot down a bomb-laden drone deployed by the Houthis that targeted Jizan airport, which is near the southern border with Yemen and is used by thousands of civilians every day, the Arab coalition said.
The Houthis claimed the attack via their Al-Masirah news outlet.
And a day before that, Saudi Arabia shot down an explosives-laden drone deployed by the Houthis targeting Najran airport, also near its southern border.
Attacks on civilians
"Iran is continuing its policy of spreading tension and instability in the Middle East and the Gulf through the successive transgressions carried out by its proxy groups," Saudi military expert Mansour al-Shehri told Al-Mashareq.
Attacks by the Iran-backed Houthis are largely directed at civilian areas and installations in Saudi Arabia, he said, "causing deaths and injuries".
Iran's support of the Houthis has prolonged the war in Yemen and has contributed to the resulting humanitarian crisis, which is characterised by acute food shortages and outbreaks of illnesses such as cholera, he said.
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has "equipped the Houthis with military technologies that enabled them to carry out attacks on civilian sites and facilities that have been continuing for more than a year", al-Shehri noted.
War by proxy
"Iran has relied on the war-by-proxy tactic conducted primarily through the military arms it established and supported in the region," political researcher Abdul Nabi Bakkar told Al-Mashareq.
It has sought to move its battles outside its own borders by using its affiliates "to carry out attacks aimed at sowing constant turmoil and tension", he said.
Putting an end to these attacks has become a global demand, Bakkar said.
The sole aim of attacks by Iranian proxies in the region "is to keep the region in a state of constant tension and insecurity", retired UAE army officer Abdullah al-Ameri told Al-Mashareq.
Through these actions, Iran seeks to implement its expansionist policy by penetrating deep into areas of tension, he said, "which has been the case in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen".
The IRGC is continuing its repeated attacks in a manner that poses a danger "to the lives and stability of thousands of civilians, should the IRGC proxies' attacks expand and turn into a war", he said.