Sana'a, Yemen Map
Sana'a, Yemen Map

CAIRO - Col. Turki al Maliki, spokesman for Saudi-led coalition forces in Yemen, said that a Houthi drone struck the Abha Airport for the third time in less than a month, wounding nine people in an attack during the early hours of the morning Tuesday. 

Amateur video shows taxi drivers surveying damage to vehicles outside the main airport terminal building.

Saudi media quoted al Maliki as saying that nine civilians were wounded in the drone attack, which he called a "terrorist act." Maliki also stated that the attack on a civilian target might qualify as a "war crime."

It was the third Houthi drone attack on Abha Airport in less than a month.

Drone targets pipeline 

A drone attack on Saudi oil pumping stations in May temporarily shut down the Yanbaw oil pipeline to the Red Sea.

Yemen's Houthis also claimed responsibility for that attack, although U.S. military sources think the drones used in the attack might have come from Iraq, rather than Yemen.

"Beginning of escalation"

Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, said he thinks attacks on Saudi targets, like the ones on Abha Airport, are "clearly related to the situation with Iran," and he argues they are more likely to escalate than to taper off given the current tensions between Washington and Tehran.

“I think this is the beginning of escalation,” Khashan said. “The Iranians are increasing their enrichment of uranium and ... I am bracing for further developments and further military action in the region. The Iranians operate under the assumption that the Trump Administration does not want war, [that] Trump is focused on the economy and on getting re-elected. So, the Iranians calculation may be that they will do anything in order to derail his efforts.”

Khashan went on to underscore that the "Houthi attacks on Saudi airspace and Abha and Jizan Airports point to the frailty of Saudi defenses," despite the country's hefty military budget.

"Raises the stakes"

Washington-based Gulf analyst Theodore Karasik tells VOA that attempts by Houthi drones to hit southern Saudi Arabia are becoming a daily occurrence and the "threat to civil aviation ... raises the stakes dramatically."

Karasik notes that U.N. Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths is currently visiting the UAE, after a trip to Moscow, and he says there is "a growing consensus that the threat must be dealt with quickly."

'Saudi TV indicated the kingdom "may respond to the Houthi attack" on Abha Airport, but it provided no further details.

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