The U.S. military intervened Monday to help the United Arab Emirates thwart a missile attack by rebels in Yemen on an air base where about 2,000 American personnel are stationed, U.S. and Emirati officials said.

The attack marked a sharp escalation in tensions as it was the second in a week aimed at the United Arab Emirates, which is part of the Saudi-led coalition that has been at war with the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen for years. Though the Houthis frequently target Saudi Arabia, which borders Yemen, strikes aimed at the Emirates had been rare until recently, as have U.S. interventions like the one Monday, and the country has been considered a safe haven in a tumultuous region.

The rebels said that they had targeted Al Dhafra Air Base in the capital, Abu Dhabi, which hosts the U.S. Air Force’s 380th Air Expeditionary Wing and has about 2,000 American military and civilian personnel stationed there. The U.S. deployed Patriot missile defenses at the base.

“U.S. forces at Al Dhafra Air Base, near Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), engaged two inbound missile threats with multiple Patriot interceptors coincident to efforts by the armed forces of the UAE,” said Capt. Bill Urban, chief spokesman for the U.S. Central Command. “The combined efforts successfully prevented both missiles from impacting the base,” it added. American and Emirati officials said there were no casualties.

The Emirati Ministry of Defense said the two missiles were fired by the Houthis.

American forces on the base were on a heightened state of alert and spent about an hour in security bunkers after the missile alert sounded, said Lt. Col. Phillip Ventura, a spokesman for the U.S. Air Forces in the Middle East.


“U.S. forces at Al Dhafra stand with the UAE and our coalition partners across the region,” said Brig. Gen. Andrew Clark, commander of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing. “We have a strong partnership with the Emiratis and will continue working together in support of our mutual interests.”

Emirati authorities said missile fragments had fallen around Abu Dhabi but caused no casualties. The Emirati defense ministry affirmed its “full readiness to deal with any threats” and promised to take all necessary measures to protect the state from attacks, according to the state news agency, WAM.

The missile fire came a week after the Houthis claimed responsibility for another attack on the Emirates targeting the airport in Abu Dhabi and a fuel depot. That attack on the fuel depot killed three people.

The Saudi-led coalition retaliated with airstrikes on northern Yemen, killing scores of people at a detention center and knocking out the internet across the impoverished country. The Houthis had threatened to avenge those strikes and to attack the United Arab Emirates again.

In a video statement, a Houthi military spokesman, Yahya Sarea, said the Houthis had carried out the attack in response to an escalation by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and that it had also included drones and missile attacks targeting sites in Dubai, another Emirati city, and Saudi Arabia.

Sarea warned foreign companies and investors in the Emirates to leave “since it has become an unsafe country that will be targeted regularly as long as it continues its aggression and siege of the Yemeni people.”


The escalation in hostilities is fresh proof of the Yemen conflict’s obstinacy a year after President Joe Biden took office vowing to bring the war — and one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters — to an end.

After months of territorial gains by the Houthis, who control northern Yemen, forces backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have managed to claw back some territory and shift the momentum of the war. Those offensives have snarled international efforts to push the two sides toward peace.

Even though the attack was successfully thwarted, it threatened to shake the image of the UAE as a stable outpost in the chaotic Middle East.

“We have to be honest that this is something that we are not used to,” said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a Dubai-based political scientist. “The UAE has maintained a reputation of being a safe haven for investors, visitors and tourists,” he added, predicting that the attacks would not do lasting damage to that image.

“Maybe today, there is this attack,” he said. But the wealthy UAE “has the best defense system that money can buy.”