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US warns against travel to UAE, cites Houthi rebel threat; Herzog set to fly Sunday

‘Rebel groups operating in Yemen have stated an intent to attack neighboring countries… using missiles and drones,’ State Department says

Seagulls fly across Abu Dhabi's corniche in the Emirati capital, on January 24, 2022. (Karim Sahib/AFP)
Seagulls fly across Abu Dhabi's corniche in the Emirati capital, on January 24, 2022. (Karim Sahib/AFP)

The US State Department on Wednesday updated its travel advisory for the United Arab Emirates, warning Americans against visiting the Gulf state due to the threat of missile and drone attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

“The possibility of attacks affecting US citizens and interests in the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula remains an ongoing, serious concern,” the travel advisory 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 State Department already had a “do not travel” warning in place for the UAE due to COVID-19 concerns.

The Iran-backed Houthis launched two missile attacks on the UAE this month, with three oil workers killed in the first assault on January 17 and the second intercepted by its defense forces.

On Thursday, a senior Emirati official vowed Houthi attacks will not become a “new normal” for the UAE, vowing a robust defense.

“This is not going to be the new normal for the UAE,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“We refuse to acquiesce to the threat of Houthi terror that targets our people and way of life,” the official added.

Interceptors are launched over Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates to hit incoming missiles, on January 24, 2022. (Video screenshot)

Despite the US warning, the UAE official also insisted the Gulf country was “ready to defend itself.”

“We remain one of the most secure countries in the world, and the recent attacks have only strengthened our commitment to safeguarding the welfare of our residents,” the official said.

Composite image shows Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, left, and President Isaac Herzog, right. (Markus Schreiber/AP, Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The updated US travel advisory came three days before President Isaac Herzog’s scheduled trip to the UAE, the first official visit by an Israeli president. He is slated to meet Abu Dhabi’s powerful Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, who invited him, and other top Emirati officials during the two-day swing.

Following the initial Houthi attack, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett “ordered the Israeli security establishment to provide their counterparts in the UAE with any assistance” that could help to protect against future attacks.

“Israel stands with the UAE,” he wrote in a letter to Bin Zayed. “I stand with Mohammed bin Zayed. The world should stand against terror.”

Israel and the UAE forged ties in the US-brokered Abraham Accords in 2020, bringing over a decade of covert contacts into the open, and have seen their relationship flourish since then.

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