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Coalition: 16 Hurt as Yemen Rebel Drone Targets Saudi Airport

FILE - This picture made available by the Ansarullah Media Centre on Feb. 15, 2022, shows an undated launch of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV or drone) that was previously used in a strike on Saudi and Emirati airspace.

Sixteen people including foreigners were injured in Saudi Arabia when the kingdom destroyed a drone launched against an airport by Yemeni rebels, the Saudi-led coalition said Monday.

It is the second airport attack in less than two weeks blamed on, or claimed by, the Iran-backed Houthi insurgents.

The rebels regularly launch attacks against Saudi Arabia which has for seven years led the military coalition which intervened to support Yemen's government in the face of Houthi advances.

"A drone launched in the direction of King Abdullah Airport in Jazan was destroyed, with debris falling inside the airport," the coalition said, as reported by the official Saudi Press Agency.

"Sixteen civilians of different nationalities were injured," it said, accusing the Houthis of "again launching cross-border attacks from Sanaa airport."

The airport, and the Yemeni capital city of Sanaa, are held by the Houthis, who claimed responsibility for an attack that took place on February 10, also in Saudi Arabia's southwest near Yemen.

Officials in the kingdom said 12 people were hurt on that occasion by falling debris when the Saudi military blew up a Yemeni rebel "bomb-laden" drone targeting Abha International Airport.

In response, the coalition on February 14 said it destroyed a communications system used for drone attacks located near the Telecoms Ministry in Sanaa.

In December, the coalition said the Houthis had fired more than 850 attack drones and 400 ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia in the previous seven years, killing a total of 59 civilians.

That figure compares with the 401 coalition air raids carried out in January alone over Yemen, according to the Yemen Data Project, an independent tracker which reported around 9,000 civilian fatalities from the strikes in that country since 2015.

Rights groups have long criticized the coalition for civilian casualties in its aerial bombardment.

The latest Houthi drone attack came while the United Arab Emirates, another coalition member, hosts a defense conference focused on drones. The UAE and its allies warned at the conference on Sunday of the rising threat of drone attacks, as Middle East militants rapidly acquire a taste for the cheap and easily accessible unmanned systems.

Yemen is the world's worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations, which has repeatedly warned that aid agencies are running out of funds.

The U.N. has estimated the war killed 377,000 people by the end of 2021, both directly and indirectly through hunger and disease.

On Monday, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Twitter that "following bombing" overnight in Hajjah province, its team in the emergency room of Abs General Hospital "received a 12-year-old girl and a 50-year-old woman, both dead on arrival.”

They also received "10 wounded civilians, most of them women and children, including one pregnant woman."

Fighting has escalated in the province, MSF said, expressing deep concern over "the terrible impact of indiscriminate attacks, including bombing and shelling on civilians on both sides of the front lines."