Israeli President Isaac Herzog speaks at Expo 2020 in Dubai, UAE, Jan. 31, 2022. (AP/Jon Gambrell) (AP/Jon Gambrell)
Isaac Herzog

Israeli President’s visit continues as planned after Emiratis intercepted ballistic missile fired from Yemen.

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

The United Arab Emirates intercepted a ballistic missile fired by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen during a state visit by Israeli President Herzog in Monday’s pre-dawn hours.

The Emirati Defense Ministry said the missile was shot down over an open area and that no casualties or damage was caused.

President Herzog was notified and his visit is proceeding as scheduled.

Later in the morning, the UAE Defense Ministry tweeted that an air strike destroyed a Houthi ballistic missile platform in western Yemen’s Al Jawf province.

The missile was third attack on the Emirates by the Iran-backed Houthis in January. One attack struck a petrochemical facility killing three and injuring six while a second attack the same day struck an area of the Abu Dhabi International Airport which was being expanded. Last week, the Houthis fired missiles at the Al-Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi which were intercepted. The air base is home to 2,000 American troops.

Herzog arrived in the UAE on Sunday and its the first visit to the Gulf state by an Israeli President since the signing of the Abraham accords. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visited Abu Dhabi in December. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visited in July to dedicate Israel’s embassy in Abu Dhabi.

Herzog met with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and with members of the UAE Jewish community. The President is due to visit Expo 2020, the world’s fair in Dubai where Israel has a pavilion.

The timing of Monday morning’s missile suggests that Iran wants to disrupt Israeli-Gulf cooperation and upstage Herzog’s visit. Although Iran denies arming the Houthis, the attack appears to be Tehran testing Western resolve on its drive for nuclear weapons.

The Houthis, whose formal name is Ansar Allah (The Partisans of God) have been fighting a civil war in Yemen since 2014. The UAE is part of a Saudi-led coalition fighting the insurgents.

Last year, the Biden administration removed the Houthis from the State Department’s list of Foreign Designated Terror Organizations. Officials explained that the terror designation made it impossible for the West to send humanitarian aid to Yemen, where millions of people face the twin threats of famine and COVID. However, emboldened by the move, the Houthis have blocked deliveries of food and medicine.

The White House is facing increasing calls to reinstate the Houthis’ terror designation.

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