The US State Department has added the “threat of missile or drone attacks” to a travel advisory for the United Arab Emirates, which was already on a United States list of “do not travel” destinations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The department added the new potential threat to its travel warning for the UAE – already at the highest, “do not travel” level – on Thursday.
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“The possibility of attacks affecting US citizens and interests in the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula remains an ongoing, serious concern,” the Department of State said.
“Rebel groups operating in Yemen have stated an intent to attack neighboring countries, including the UAE, using missiles and drones. Recent missile and drone attacks targeted populated areas and civilian infrastructure.”
The update came 10 days after a drone-and-missile attack claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels killed three people in Abu Dhabi. Another missile attack targeting the UAE capital on Monday temporarily disrupted air traffic.
The US military said it helped intercept two Houthi missiles on Monday that were aimed at Al Dhafra airbase, which hosts approximately 2,000 American service members.
The Department of State recently raised the travel advisory for most countries around the world, including neighbouring Canada, to “do not travel” due to COVID-19. There are four levels of warning, the lowest being “exercise normal precautions”.
In response to the American travel warning, an Emirati official told the AFP news agency that the UAE remains “one of the most secure countries”.
“This is not going to be the new normal for the UAE,” the official said. “We refuse to acquiesce to the threat of Houthi terror that targets our people and way of life.”
The Houthis recently started directly targeting the UAE – a key ally of Saudi Arabia, which is leading a bombing campaign against the Houthis.
The Saudi-led and US-backed coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 to push back the Houthi rebels, who had taken over most of the country, including the capital Sanaa, and to restore the Gulf-backed government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The war has brought Yemen to the verge of famine, sparking what the United Nations has said is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
The coalition accuses the rebels of being proxies of Iran – a charge that both the Houthis and Tehran reject.
While the UAE said it has withdrawn its troops from Yemen, the Houthis have accused the country of backing anti-rebel forces across the country. The Houthis have said the attacks against the UAE are in retaliation to what they called “US-Saudi-Emirati aggression”.
“UAE will be an unsafe state as long as its aggressive escalation against Yemen continues,” a Houthi military spokesperson said after the deadly attack on Abu Dhabi on January 17.