SANAA, Yemen 

The Houthi attacks on Abu Dhabi International Airport and other facilities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) represented a new “turning point” in the course of the Yemeni war — which is about to enter its seventh year — according to a political expert.

On Monday evening, the Iranian-backed Houthi group announced that it had targeted the Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports, and “sensitive” facilities in the UAE, with five ballistic missiles, and a large number of drones.

Three petroleum tanks were blown up and a fire broke out in the new construction area near the Abu Dhabi Airport, killing three people and wounding six others.

Abu Dhabi, for its part, accused the Houthi group of targeting “civilian areas and facilities on UAE soil,” stressing that it “reserved the right to respond” to those “terrorist acts.”

Iran faces accusation

In January 2018, a report by the UN Group of Eminent Experts submitted to the UN Security Council accused Iran of violating the arms embargo imposed on Yemen.

Experts have identified missile remnants associated with military equipment and unmanned aerial military vehicles of Iranian origin that were brought into Yemen after the arms embargo was imposed in 2015.

According to the report, the drones used by the Houthis to launch attacks against Saudi Arabia are similar in design to the drones manufactured by the Iranian establishment for aircraft manufacturing.

On Jan. 8, a spokesman for the Arab coalition, al-Maliki, said “all weapons used by the Houthis in their operations are Iran-made.”

He said the Houthi-controlled “Al-Hudaydah port has become a major gateway to receive Iranian ballistic missiles.”

Iran usually denies these accusations and says it supports efforts to resolve the crisis in Yemen by peaceful means.

Locally-manufactured weapons

Over the past years, the Houthi group has repeatedly announced that it is working on programs to manufacture and develop weapons, with purely Yemeni expertise.

The group’s military spokesman, Yahya Saree, revealed several drones and missile systems that the group had brought into service.

In late March 2020, Saree announced that the most prominent missile systems that entered service during the past five years are “Qaher, Burkan, Badr, Quds 1, Nikal, Qassem, and Dhul Qifar.”

Saree did not provide additional details about the features of these missiles, but the group’s media outlets said the range of some of these missiles is between 700 and 1,500 kilometers (434 to 932 miles).

In early March 2021, the Houthi group announced its possession of new ballistic missiles and drones.

Media outlets, including the Houthi-affiliated Al-Masirah TV, revealed new missiles Sair, long-range Qassem 2, and winged-long-range ballistic Quds 2.

The group also revealed new models of drones called Waeed and Samad 4.

‘Turning point’

“The targeting of Abu Dhabi and the hijacking of the Rawabi ship in the Red Sea represent a turning point in the course of the Yemeni war and its transformation into a regional one,” Abdul Salam Muhammad, the head of the Abaad Studies and Research Center in Yemen, told Anadolu Agency.

The political expert went on to say that “the international community may turn to political pressure on Al-Houthi (group)” and include it on the list of terrorist groups and give the green light for more military pressure (by the coalition) on the ground.

He accused Iran of being behind the escalation, saying it needed a bargaining chip in the ongoing nuclear negotiations in Vienna.

With regard to the size of the Houthis’ military capabilities, Muhammad explained that the group possesses many depots of advanced quality weapons, especially ballistic missiles and drones, noting that “there is widespread smuggling of these weapons through the ports under the control of the Houthis.”

He warned of “the Houthis’ use of chemical weapons in the future, although there is no evidence so far that they possess them.”

Yemen has been engulfed by violence and instability since 2014, when the Houthis captured much of the country, including Sanaa.

Tens of thousands of people have died and millions have been displaced, in what the UN has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Until the end of last year, the war in Yemen had killed 377,000 directly and indirectly, according to the UN.

* Writing by Mahmoud Barakat in Ankara.

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