BEIRUT, Lebanon — Houthi rebels attacked an airport in southern Saudi Arabia, both sides in Yemen’s civil war said on Wednesday, and injured 26 travelers, according to the Saudis.
Houthi officials claimed responsibility for the attack, saying their group had launched a cruise missile at the airport’s control tower that put it out of service. It was not clear precisely when the attack took place, and the Saudi side did not confirm that the control tower was damaged.
A Houthi official who heads the group’s truce negotiating team, Mohamed Abdul Salam, cast the strike as a response to Saudi “aggression” in Yemen, saying in a tweet, “It is imperative for our people to defend ourselves.”
The Iran-allied Houthis have been battling a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates since 2015, when the Houthis seized the capital, Sana. The Saudi defense minister, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has since become the day-to-day ruler of the kingdom, deployed aircraft and troops to drive the militant group out.
The fighting has consumed Yemen, pushing an estimated 24 million people closer to famine, despite shaky steps toward peace talks in recent months.
The Saudis portray the conflict as a proxy war between Iran, which supports the Houthis but does not directly supervise them, and its regional enemies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia have carried an even more dangerous charge recently, as the United States — which is allied with the Saudis and Emiratis — and Iran have exchanged increasingly inflammatory rhetoric and stepped up their military posturing. Tensions have simmered down over the last few weeks.
In May, Houthi drones hit two pumping facilities along a Saudi oil pipeline and forced the Saudis to shut the pipeline temporarily, soon after a mysterious sabotage attack damaged four oil tankers outside the Emirati port of Fujairah, two of them Saudi. On Sunday, Houthi drones targeted Saudi drone facilities at another airport near Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen, a Houthi TV channel said.
The projectile in the most recent attack landed at the arrivals terminal of Abha International Airport, about three hours’ drive north of the kingdom’s border with Yemen, a Saudi spokesman, Col. Turki Al-Maliki, said in a statement, adding that military authorities were still investigating the incident.
The wounded included women of at least three nationalities — Saudi, Yemeni and Indian — as well as two Saudi children, he said.