Three hostile drones were intercepted over the United Arab Emirates at dawn on Wednesday, the country’s defense ministry said.
The drones managed to penetrate Emirati airspace but were destroyed away from populated areas, the ministry said on Twitter.
It’s unclear to whom the drones belonged. Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, a possible culprit, have not claimed responsibility.
The UAE is a member of the Saudi-led coalition that has been at war with the Houthis since 2015. The coalition has been fighting to restore Yemen’s internationally recognized government after it was ousted by Houthi forces, who now control much of the country.
In 2019, the UAE pulled most of its troops from Yemen, after privately deeming the war unwinnable. The campaign failed to crush the rebels and exacted a huge humanitarian toll.
The UAE had largely avoided the firing line, with Houthis opting instead to strike Saudi Arabia until recently. The Houthis have launched a series of attacks on the Emiratis, beginning with a January 17 drone strike that killed three foreign workers in the capital, Abu Dhabi. The Saudi-led coalition responded with a weeklong offensive in Yemen, killing scores of people and knocking out the internet.
In recent days, Houthi forces have launched several ballistic missiles aimed at US and UAE forces deployed in the country – including one attack that came during Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s historic visit to the country. The missiles launched in those attacks were intercepted by US-deployed Patriot missile defense systems, and there were no casualties.
On Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed that the US would be deploying fifth-generation fighters to assist against the Houthi threat. The move was welcomed by the UAE.
The UAE has also been lobbying the US to redesignate the Houthis as a foreign terror organization, which US President Joe Biden said is “under consideration.”
January’s attacks have surprised residents of the UAE. Abu Dhabi has repeatedly been ranked one of the safest cities in the world. For decades, the UAE staved off turbulence in a crisis-ridden region, attracting millions of expatriates and large volumes of foreign investment.
CNN’s Becky Anderson contributed reporting.