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UAE blocks missile strike as Israeli president visits

UAE blocks missile strike as Israeli president visits
By Reuters
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By Mahmoud Mourad and Alexander Cornwell

DUBAI -The United Arab Emirates said on Monday it intercepted a ballistic missile fired by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi movement as the UAE hosted Israeli President Isaac Herzog on his first visit to the Gulf business and tourism hub.

In the third such attack on the U.S.-allied Gulf state in the last two weeks, the Houthis' military spokesman said they fired Zulfiqar missiles at Abu Dhabi and drones at Dubai.

He reiterated a warning to residents and firms to "stay away from vital headquarters and facilities" in the UAE, which prides itself as a safe business haven and global tourism destination.

The United States condemned the assault - which followed a Jan. 17 strike on a fuel depot in Abu Dhabi that killed three people - in an escalation of the Yemen war between the Houthis and a Saudi-led coalition, which includes the UAE.

A senior Emirati official described the attacks as "useless" provocations that would be dealt with to safeguard national security and sovereignty. "Those who test the UAE are mistaken," the official, Anwar Gargash, said in a Twitter post.

The assaults have led to rare security jitters among some residents in a country where expatriates are a majority, but have had no visible impact on daily life, with restaurants and beaches packed during the peak mild winter season.

UAE market sentiment weakened following Houthi missile launches but economic analysts say the attacks, mostly thwarted, have not dampened business or investor confidence yet.

The UAE defence ministry said the missile was intercepted at 20 minutes past midnight and its debris fell on an uninhabited area. It did not say whether it was aimed at Abu Dhabi or Dubai.

It came as Israel's president was visiting Abu Dhabi where he discussed security and bilateral relations with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

"While Israel's president is visiting the UAE to build bridges and promote stability across the region, the Houthis continue to launch attacks that threaten civilians," U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a tweet.

Herzog, pressing on with his visit, was at the Expo 2020 world fair in Dubai.

Herzog voiced hope in speech that more countries would normalise relations with Israel as the UAE did when it, along with Bahrain, forged ties in 2020 under U.S.-brokered pacts dubbed the "Abraham Accords".


The accords have built a new security and defence cooperation axis between Israel and Sunni Muslim Gulf states based mainly on shared concerns over Shi'ite Iran, including its network of proxies and its ballistic missile programme.

The Saudi-led coalition accuses Iran of supplying arms to the Houthis, a charge both the group and Tehran deny. The Yemen conflict is seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Israel last year joined a naval drill with UAE, Bahraini and U.S. forces. Emirati and Israeli state-owned weapons makers have signed deals to jointly develop an advanced drone defence system and unmanned military vessels.

The Houthis have repeatedly carried out missile and drone launches on Saudi Arabia in the nearly seven-year war before expanding strikes on the UAE this month.

The UAE had largely ended its military presence in 2019 but holds sway through Yemeni forces it arms and trains, and which recently joined battles against the Houthis in key energy-producing regions.

The coalition has recently also carried out deadly air strikes on Houthi-held areas in the war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.

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