The Iran-backed Houthis have vowed to continue attacking United Arab Emirates (UAE) interests after suffering a series of defeats on the ground in Yemen, inflicted by the UAE-trained Giants Brigades, which are fighting on the side of the Yemeni government as part of the Arab coalition.
The Giants Brigades said Saturday that some of its fighters remained on the front lines in key Yemeni conflict zones as part of defensive measures, after driving out the Houthis.
On Friday, the Giants Brigades said it had begun repositioning its forces after pushing the Houthis back from Shabwa province, and stopping short of launching a northward offensive towards the strategically vital city of Marib.
Having lost ground to the Emirati-trained forces, the Houthis have warned of further attacks on the UAE unless such operations are halted.
The UAE on Monday (January 31) blew up a missile launch site in Yemen's al-Jawf province, minutes after intercepting a ballistic missile the Iran-backed Houthis had fired from it at the UAE.
The Emirati Ministry of Defence said air defence forces "intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile launched by the Houthi terrorist group" in the early hours of Monday.
The ministry said it responded by destroying the missile launch site in Yemen's northern al-Jawf province exactly 30 minutes after the missile was intercepted, releasing black-and-white footage of the explosion.
The Emirates affirms its "full readiness to deal with any threats" and will "take all necessary measures to protect the UAE from any attacks", the ministry said.
The Houthis' attack drew swift condemnation from countries including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, France and the United States.
Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) secretary-general Nayef Falah Mubarak Al Hajraf commended the "competence and vigilance" demonstrated by the UAE air defence forces, which intercepted and destroyed the ballistic missile.
Nobody was hurt in the attack, with fragments of debris falling "outside populated areas", according to the official Emirati news agency, WAM.
Emirati authorities said the incident had no impact on air traffic.
A senior Emirati official last week vowed that Houthi attacks will not become a "new normal" for the Gulf state, following two previous attacks.
On January 17, three oil workers were killed in a drone-and-missile attack on Abu Dhabi -- the first deadly assault in the UAE claimed by the Houthis -- and two ballistic missiles were intercepted over the capital a week later.
In early January, the Houthis seized a UAE-flagged ship in the Red Sea.
Urgent need for de-escalation
During a recently concluded trip to the region, US special envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking met with partner nations, in co-ordination with the UN special envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg, the US State Department said Friday.
Lenderking focused on the urgent need for de-escalation and protection of civilians, and called for all sides to come together to support a UN-led inclusive peace process.
During his visits to the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman and London, he also called for intensifying efforts to improve economic stability, and pressed for action to improve humanitarian access and address the fuel crisis.
He continued to raise the US government's deepening concern regarding humanitarian funding gaps as aid organisations are forced to cut assistance to millions of Yemenis.
The UN estimates it will need $3.9 billion in 2022 to meet the needs of Yemenis.
Houthis continue to steal aid
The Giants Brigades on January 18 announced they had found hundreds of mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) belonging to the Houthis hidden inside United Nations (UN) aid boxes in Harib district of Marib province.
Military sources said the Houthis had placed the explosives inside the UN boxes in order to transport them to the Harib battlefront.
Minister of Information Muammar al-Eryani urged the UN to investigate the incident, which he said shows the Houthis' "exploitation of humanitarian and relief work as cover to continue killing Yemenis".
"The use of aid cartons for the purpose of arming [fighters] on the battle fronts is a most heinous crime," political analyst Faisal Ahmed said, noting that the Yemeni people are in desperate need of humanitarian aid.
"This constitutes a double crime: the theft of relief aid and the use of these cartons to transport tools of killing, bombing and sabotage," Ahmed said.
The Houthis have stolen or interfered with the distribution of humanitarian aid destined for civilians in areas under their control before, economist Fares al-Najjar told Al-Mashareq.
The use of UN aid cartons to smuggle weapons "is a crime that should not be ignored", he said.
"The Houthi militia continues to abhorrently loot humanitarian aid and divert it from its final destination," Deputy Minister of Legal Affairs and Human Rights Nabil Abdul Hafeez told Al-Mashareq.
The placement of mines in relief cartons is a "mockery", he said.
"They first exploited the aid for their war effort then and now are using it to transport weapons to be used to kill Yemenis," Abdul Hafeez said.