Egypt immediately expressed solidarity with the United Arab Emirates following the terrorist attacks, using ballistic missiles and unmanned drones, by the illegitimate Houthi militia in control of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa. Right after the first attack on 17 January, arbitrarily targeting civilians – including the thousands of people from all over the world who daily use Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports – President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi spoke on the phone with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri was also in constant contact with his Emirati counterpart, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, confirming Cairo’s readiness to provide any support needed to help maintain the UAE’s security and stability, and strongly condemning the attacks.
Last week, on 27 January, Al-Sisi reaffirmed the same message during talks with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed on a brief visit to Abu Dhabi. He stressed Egypt’s support for the UAE and the measures the UAE will adopt to defend its territories and citizens. The urgency of the situation in Yemen, and the Houthis’ resort to terrorist tactics that threaten regional and international peace and security, continued this week. On Monday, the UAE announced it had intercepted two ballistic missiles launched by the militia with no casualties reported. The event marked the third time the Iran-backed Houthis dispatched an aerial assault against the UAE since 17 January.
The Houthis have launched thousands of missiles against Saudi Arabia over the past seven years, since a Saudi-led coalition that includes the UAE intervened in the Yemeni Civil War to fight the Houthis and support the internationally recognised government led by Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Egypt had announced its support for the Saudi-led alliance and the Yemeni president.
During his recent meeting with Sheikh Mohamed, Al-Sisi stated that the security of the Gulf countries is part of Egypt’s national security, stressing that Gulf security should not be compromised. He also confirmed Egypt’s rejection of any practices that could destabilise the Gulf. Meanwhile, Bin Zayed hailed Egypt’s strategic and pivotal role to protect Arab national security and its efforts to consolidate stability and development in the region.
The sudden escalation against the UAE had taken place after Yemeni government forces pushed back against the Houthis in recent weeks, achieving gains in the contested province of Marib, which the Houthis have been trying to take for over a year. The absurd, unacceptable claim that Abu Dhabi’s support for the advancing Yemeni army justified the terrorist attacks against civilian targets in the Emirati capital and one of the world’s busiest business hubs, Dubai, must be strongly condemned.
Indeed the ongoing war in Yemen has resulted in tremendous civilian losses and human suffering since it started in 2014. However the Arab Alliance, led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have repeatedly affirmed their commitment not to target civilians, blaming the Houthi militia for using civilian establishments, including hospitals, schools and prisons, to launch their blind missiles targeting Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Yemeni government forces. Mistakes have certainly been made, but that should not distract the world from the original party responsible for the ongoing suffering of the Yemeni people: the Houthis and the regional parties that provide them with military support, particularly the ballistic missiles and drones aimed at targets in the UAE, more than 1400 km away.
Yemen’s legitimate government, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have not been the only parties to reiterate the charge that the Houthis have been using civilians as human shields. Evidence of such practices has been documented by the United Nations, local and regional NGOs and various world humanitarian agencies.
Early this week, a report submitted to the UN Security Council by a panel of UN experts said that nearly 2,000 children recruited by the Houthi rebels died on the battlefield between January 2020 and May 2021, and that the militia continued to hold military training camps for the youngsters. “They were aged between 10 and 17 years old,” the UN report said, and “a significant number” of them were killed in Amran, Dhamar, Hajjah, Hodeida, Ibb, Saada and Sanaa.
The 303-page report said the Houthis and paramilitary forces loyal to them continue to violate a UN arms embargo. The United States and Saudi Arabia have accused Iran of supplying weapons to the Houthis in violation of the arms embargo. The UN experts reported the seizure of some Iranian-made weapons, but Iran denies any involvement in providing weapons to the Houthis.
The official Iranian denial is not accepted by any of the parties involved in the war, and the Houthis are clearly being used as a proxy by Tehran to exert pressure on the United States to reach agreement on its nuclear programme and conditions to lift the heavy US sanctions. The same applies to Lebanon’s Hizbullah and parties in Iraq loyal to Tehran. However, the danger posed by the Houthis right now has exceeded all boundaries, and they should not be allowed to pose a threat to the lives of UAE citizens, or the millions who have flocked to this inspiring part of the Gulf region from all over the world to build a success story. In this respect, the UAE is sure that Cairo will provide unwavering support.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 3 February, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.