Saudi state television on Wednesday reported an attack on a civilian airport in Saudi Arabia by the Houthis, the Iran-backed Islamist insurgents who overthrew the internationally-recognized government of Yemen in 2014.
The Biden administration reversed the Trump administration’s designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization less than a week ago.
France24 News quoted Saudi media sources that reported the attack damaged a civilian plane on the tarmac at Abha International Airport in southwestern Saudi Arabia. The plane caught fire, but firefighters were able to control the blaze. The Saudi media reports made no mention of casualties from the attack.
The Houthis almost immediately claimed responsibility, claiming the attack was carried out with four explosive-laden drones. The Saudi military coalition in Yemen said it was able to intercept two of the drones before they reached the airport.
“This targeting comes in response to the continued aerial bombardment and the brutal siege on our country,” a spokesman for the Houthis declared, claiming the Abha airport has been used to launch airstrikes against targets in Yemen.
The Saudi coalition described the airport attack as a “systematic and deliberate attempt to target civilians” and said it will “hold the [Houthi] militia accountable in accordance with international humanitarian law.”
Saudi state television described the incident as a “cowardly terrorist attack” and noted the Houthis have launched drone or missile attacks on Saudi civilian airports on several previous occasions, including the international airport in the capital city of Riyadh. Saudi officials accused Iran of providing the Houthis with the weapons used in these attacks.
France24 noted that at least three Airbus A320 passenger jetliners were on the ground at Abha during the attack. The Airbus A320 can carry up to 240 passengers. Photos released by the Saudi government on Wednesday depicted a large airliner with significant fire damage to its fuselage.
AFP noted on Thursday that Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia, and Saudi-supported forces in Yemen, appear to have “stepped up” considerably after the Biden administration rescinded the Houthis’ terrorist designation and announced the end of U.S. support for counter-insurgency operations in Yemen.
“The Houthis have resumed an offensive to seize the Yemeni government’s last northern stronghold of Marib, according to a government source, with dozens of casualties on both sides,” AFP reported.