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12 hurt as drone targets Saudi airport; Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis blamed

Saudi air defenses destroy UAV; incident comes after Biden, King Salman discuss attacks by Tehran-supported group on Saudi civilian targets

In this Aug. 22, 2019 file photo, Saudi passengers enter the departure terminal of Abha airport, in southwestern Saudi Arabia (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)
In this Aug. 22, 2019 file photo, Saudi passengers enter the departure terminal of Abha airport, in southwestern Saudi Arabia (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said Thursday that 12 people were wounded in a drone attack on an airport in the southern Saudi region of Abha near the kingdom’s border with Yemen.

It was not immediately clear from the coalition statement whether the people, who included travelers and workers at the airport, were wounded by the drone itself or from fallen debris.

Saudi air defenses destroyed the drone, according to the statement, which also said it was launched by Houthi rebels inside Yemen early Thursday afternoon. Saudi state television and accompanying social media accounts carried video from inside Abha’s airport showing operations there running as normal.

Saudi Arabia has been at war in Yemen since 2015 fighting against Iranian-backed Houthis who overran the capital and ousted the government from power.

On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden spoke with Saudi King Salman. The White House said the president and king discussed “Iranian-enabled attacks by the Houthis against civilian targets in Saudi Arabia.” Biden underscored US commitment in supporting Saudi Arabia in the defense of its people and territory from such attacks, it added.

The war has killed tens of thousands of people, both fighters and civilians, and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Then-US vice president Joe Biden, right, offers his condolences to Prince Salman bin Abdel-Aziz upon the death of on his brother Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, at Prince Sultan palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

Charity group Oxfam this week said a yearlong battle over the strategic Yemeni city of Marib alone has displaced about 100,000 people. The fighting in Marib led to increased Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in recent weeks. The UAE is part of the Saudi-led coalition and backs Yemeni militias fighting the Houthis. US officials have scrambled to reassure the Gulf strategic allies of US defensive support.

The US initially backed the Saudi war effort as the coalition tried to drive the Iranian-backed Houthis from the capital, Sanaa, and restore the previous government to power. Biden, however, has since tried to distance the US military from involvement in Yemen’s war, where both sides are accused of human rights abuses.

Yemeni children play next to tents damaged due to torrential rain in a makeshift camp for the displaced in the northern Hajjah province, on April 19, 2020. (ESSA AHMED / AFP)

A Saudi readout of the monarch’s call with Biden said King Salman discussed the importance of strengthening mutual security cooperation and cited Saudi support for US efforts in preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The White House says Biden briefed the king on ongoing multilateral talks focused on Iran’s nuclear program.

King Salman stressed the need to work together to counter the destabilizing activities of Iran’s proxies in the region, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

The two also discussed their shared commitment to maintaining balance and stability in oil markets as Brent crude hovers around $90 a barrel.

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