Terrorism |

Saudi cities face growing threat of Yemen Houthi drones

By AFP

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Travelers gather in front of the arrivals lounge at the Abha airport in southern Saudi Arabia on July 2nd. A Yemeni Houthi attack on the civilian airport wounded nine civilians that day. [AFP]

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) have stepped up drone and missile attacks on Saudi cities, highlighting what analysts call the kingdom's military vulnerabilities amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington.

Nine civilians were wounded Tuesday (July 2nd) in a Houthi attack on Abha airport in the kingdom's south, the latest in a series of recent strikes on the site.

The Houthis claimed they had hit the airport with drones.

The rise in drone warfare targeting Saudi civilian airports, desalination plants and other infrastructure follows the prevalence of Houthi ballistic missiles, including some that targeted the capital Riyadh.

As the US worked with Saudi Arabia to choke off missile smuggling routes, drones have emerged as a relatively low-cost and arguably more effective alternative for the Houthis, experts say.

Aside from low-flying drones that are hard to detect, the Houthis have also used cruise missiles in recent attacks on Saudi facilities, US and Saudi officials say.

Houthi chief Abdel Malek al-Houthi has said they have the capability to reach "important and strategic" targets in Saudi Arabia, and another key coalition member the UAE.

The Houthis are also increasingly deploying improvised sea mines in the Red Sea, which represent a "hazard for commercial shipping", according to a report last year by a UN panel of experts.

Countering drones

The increasing drone attacks have cast a spotlight on the defence systems of Saudi Arabia, which has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on fighter planes and other military hardware.

"The Houthi attacks on Saudi territory have exposed gaps in Saudi Arabia's air and missile defence," said Becca Wasser, a policy analyst at RAND Corporation.

Describing the Saudi air force as "one of the strongest branches" of the country's military, Wasser told AFP the force has nonetheless been put under "tremendous pressure" by the Houthi strikes.

The kingdom's Patriot missile defence system is not primarily designed to repel low-flying drones, experts say.

"While the air defence forces are experienced Patriot operators, it is worth noting that they are operating a missile defence system that was designed without drones in mind," Wasser said.

Iranian role

The raids come amid heightened regional tensions after Washington accused Iran of shooting down a US drone over international waters, which Tehran claimed was flying in its airspace.

The US has also blamed Iran for carrying out attacks on tankers in the strategic Gulf of Oman, an accusation vehemently denied by Tehran.

"The Houthis are demonstrating deliberate targeting of key pieces of infrastructure that, if damaged or destroyed, would have a negative effect on (Saudi) civilians," said Wasser.

Saudi and US officials accuse Tehran of providing the Houthis with the training and designs to build their drones.

Iran denies arming the rebels, but the 2018 UN panel of experts report said it identified "missile remnants, related military equipment and military unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that are of Iranian origin".

It said the Houthis' Qasef-1 drone is "virtually identical in design, dimensions and capability to that of the Ababil-T, manufactured by the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industries".

It rejected the Houthis' assertion that they manufactured the drone themselves.

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The Yemeni people are traitors. Saudi Arabia is the first country where Yemenis make money. However, as Saudi Arabia is a country of rules and regulations, and deports those who violate laws, mostly from Yemen, Yemenis returned and joined the Houthis. This means that they are exacting revenge. May God protect Saudi Arabia, its people and government against the treacherous Yemeni people!

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Names of kingdoms that are used out of place, like a cat that brags about how it did in the battle against the lion! There is a Saudi military expert and a report that made Prince Abdullah bin Sultan Al Saud state that Saudi Arabia has the ability to destroy Iran in 8 hours! That who has the ability to destroy [Iran] within hours, perhaps minutes and seconds, how can’t he protect his country and its skies from a group and drones that travel all those distances to reach their targets and strike them so easily, like what happened in Abqaiq and Khurais?!! Before that, that group has been attacking the Eastern province and other areas for about 5 years. Or is just talk and nonsense?! And what about the weapons which they’re talking about, and which cost Saudi Arabia hundreds of billions, together with the Patriots systems, what benefit do they have? What about the dog Trump who has been talking about protecting Saudi Arabia, where is that protection?! They’re happy while taking photographs of smoke while rising since the early morning hours.

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Saudi cities are secure, God willing. If Saudi Arabia wanted to end the war in Yemen in a week, it would do so.

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Every day, Saudi Arabia murders innocent people of Yemen using the newest American and European made weapons. They have destroyed all of Yemen’s Infrastructures. They don’t even show mercy towards hospitals. They have placed economic embargo against 22 million Yemenis. They do not even allow food and medicine to enter the country. Despite that. They do not tolerate Yemenis legitimate attempt for self-defense. God willing, the victory will be for the oppressed of patient ones. And you can clearly see the victory of Yemeni strugglers (Mujahidin.)

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May God reward you!

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The Yemeni people will triumph against the states of slavery and against the US-Israeli-Saudi-Emirati coalition and their cohorts who have sold off their country and supported the aggression against Yemen.

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First of all, what is happening between Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s Houthis is war and everything is to be expected in war. Exactly as Saudi Arabia shells Yemen and kills its people, the other side has the right to respond and to defend itself. Why when Yemen is hit everyone is silent, but when Saudi Arabia is hit, everybody cries?! The most beautiful thing is when Saudi Arabia tries to get some countries’ sympathy, by saying that Houthis are hitting Mecca. Why don’t you respect Mecca in the first place?!!

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The Yemeni people will triumph against the states of slavery and against the US-Israeli-Saudi-UAE coalition and their cohorts who sold their homeland, and those who assisted and supported the aggression against Yemen.

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May God protect Saudi Arabia, and its people and government!

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