RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Saudi Arabia's state-run news agency said 16 people of different nationalities were wounded Monday at an airport in the south as a result of the interception and destruction of a drone carrying explosives launched from Yemen.
The Saudi-led coalition that’s battling Yemen’s Houthi rebels was quoted as saying that the bomb-laden drone was targeting King Abdullah Airport in the Saudi city of Jizan, near the border with Yemen. Saudi defense forces allege the drone was launched from Sanaa's airport in the Yemeni capital.
Saudi state TV reported three travelers were in critical condition. It aired a short video clip of the aftermath that showed glass shattered across the floor inside the airport near a Baskin-Robbins ice cream store. The state-run Ekhbariya news channel later showed travelers moving about within Jizan’s airport and reported that flights were back to operating normally.
Saudi Arabia has been involved in Yemen’s civil war since 2015, fighting against the Iranian-backed Houthis who overran the capital of Sanaa and ousted the internationally recognized government from power. Despite seven years of fighting and war, the Houthis remain in control of Sanaa and much of northern Yemen.
The attack against Jizan, a region near Saudi Arabia's border with Yemen, comes on the eve of a patriotic day in the kingdom as the nation prepares to celebrate its first-ever Founding Day. The date, which is different from the traditional national day, is meant to symbolically commemorate the founding and unification of the Saudi state by its Al Saud rulers. Nationwide celebrations have been planned and the king has deemed it a holiday for both the private and public sectors.
The incident also comes less than two weeks after a similar attempted drone attack and interception resulted in 12 people wounded at an airport in the southern Saudi region of Abha, also near the kingdom’s border with Yemen.
The war in Yemen has killed tens of thousands of people, both fighters and civilians, and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Many more have been internally displaced.
The United Nations said January’s civilian casualties were the highest in at least three years. More than 650 civilians were killed or injured last month by airstrikes, shelling, small arms fire and other violence. A coalition airstrike hit a detention facility in the Houthi stronghold of Saada in January, killing or injuring more than 300 detainees.
Fighting in the strategic city of Marib in past months has led to increased Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which is part of the Saudi-led coalition and backs Yemeni militias fighting the Houthis.