Yemen rebels claim missile launch toward UAE

Yemen’s Shia rebels on Sunday claimed they had launched a missile toward an under-construction nuclear power plant in the United Arab Emirates in the first such strike toward the country. Emirati officials had no immediate comment.

The United Arab Emirates’ state-run news agency denies the claim.

The $ 20 billion Barakah nuclear power plant is in Abu Dhabi’s far western desert. The first of its four reactors, being built in the UAE near its border with Saudi Arabia, is scheduled to come online in 2018.

The Yemeni rebels, known as Houthis, last month targeted the Saudi capital, Riyadh, with a ballistic missile that was intercepted by Saudi air defences. It was the deepest strike inside the kingdom since the war between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis and their allies began in March 2015.

Sunday’s claim comes amid heavy fighting in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, where the Houthis are facing off with fighters loyal to the country’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, in the fifth straight day of street fighting as the alliance between the two unravels.

The Houthis have accused Saleh of striking deals with the Saudi-led coalition, which has been waging an air campaign against the Houthi-Saleh alliance for nearly three years.

Since the recent clashes erupted, the Saudi coalition has been targeting the Houthis and backing Saleh’s camp to control Sanaa. The UAE is an active member of the coalition and its forces have mostly focused on securing the southern region of Yemen.

At least 100 Emirati soldiers have been killed in the war, which was launched to dislodge the Houthis from Sanaa after they overran the capital and kicked out the internationally-backed Yemeni government from power.

Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of supplying Houthis with missiles, including the one used to target Riyadh on Nov. 4. Both the Houthis and Iran deny the claim.

Iran, meanwhile, has close trade ties with the UAE. In November, Iranian authorities ordered a two-day ban on a hard-line Iranian newspaper after it ran a headline saying the UAE’s tourism hub of Dubai was the “next target” for Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

The UAE on Sunday was celebrating its 46th National Day with a four-day-long public sector holiday.

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