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UAE intercepts Houthi missile during Israeli president’s first visit

DUBAI — The United Arab Emirates said Monday it intercepted a missile fired by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement as the UAE hosted Israeli President Isaac Herzog on his first visit to the country.

In in the last two weeks, the Houthis’ military spokesman said they fired Zulfiqar ballistic missiles at Abu Dhabi and drones at Dubai.

The Houthis’ military spokesman said they fired Zulfiqar ballistic missiles at Abu Dhabi and drones at Dubai, in the third attack on the U.S.-allied Gulf business and tourism hub in the last two weeks.

He reiterated a warning to residents and firms to “stay away from vital headquarters and facilities” in the UAE, which prides itself as a safe business haven and global tourism destination.

The United States condemned the assault — which followed a Jan. 17 strike on a fuel depot in Abu Dhabi that killed three people — in an escalation of the Yemen war between the Houthis and a Saudi-led coalition, which includes the UAE.

A senior Emirati official described the attacks as “useless” provocations that would be dealt with to safeguard national security and sovereignty. “Those who test the UAE are mistaken,” the official, Anwar Gargash, said in a Twitter post.

The “Abraham accords have built a new axis between Israel and Sunni Muslim Gulf states based mainly on shared concerns over Shi’ite Iran.Amos Ben Gershom / AFP – Getty Images

The assaults have led to rare security jitters among some residents in a country where expatriates are a majority. But they have had no visible impact on daily life, with restaurants and beaches packed during the peak mild winter season.

The UAE defense ministry said the missile was intercepted at 20 minutes past midnight and its debris fell on an uninhabited area. It did not say whether it was aimed at Abu Dhabi or Dubai.

It came as Israel’s president was visiting Abu Dhabi where he discussed security and bilateral relations with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

“While Israel’s president is visiting the UAE to build bridges and promote stability across the region, the Houthis continue to launch attacks that threaten civilians,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a tweet.

Herzog, pressing on with his visit, was at the Expo 2020 world fair in Dubai.

Herzog voiced hope in speech that more countries would normalize relations with Israel as the UAE did when it, along with Bahrain, forged ties in 2020 under U.S.-brokered pacts dubbed the “Abraham Accords.”

The accords have built a new security and defense cooperation axis between Israel and Sunni Muslim Gulf states based mainly on shared concerns over Shi’ite Iran, including its network of proxies and its ballistic missile program.

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