Two days after Israel reportedly destroyed an alleged Iranian airbase in the city of al-Qiswa near Damascus in Syria, Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed they fired a cruise missile toward the $20 bilion Barakh nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi in the UAE (which is still under construction) which “successfully hit its target”, the group’s television service said on its website Sunday, however without providing evidence.
The launch was in retaliation for the closing of sea and air ports, it said without offering evidence or providing further details. The statement quoted a Houthi leader who warned against continuing the blockade, “affirming Yemenis’ right to take sensitive steps.”
“The missile force announces the launching of a winged cruise missile … toward the al-Barakah nuclear reactor in Abu Dhabi,” the website said. It gave no further details. The claim comes as the United Arab Emirates, which is part of the Saudi-led coalition, celebrates its National Day.
According to Reuters, the 4 nuclear reactors at the plant are scheduled for completion between 2018 and 2020, when they will start operation.
In September, the UAE’s energy minister said the country’s first nuclear reactor will “definitely” be operational next year with the operating company getting a license in 2018. However, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation announced in May that the plant had received the fuel assemblies for its unit 1 reactor. The fuel assemblies, the ENEC said in a statement, were being “securely stored” at the plant.
It was unclear if the assemblies were still being stored there.
The Yemen rebels’ claim about striking a target in Abu Dhabi comes amid heavy fighting in Yemen’s capital, Sana, between the Shiite Houthi rebels and some of their former allies, who are led by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Mr. Saleh, who stepped down in 2011 after a mass uprising against his 33 years in office, but he formed an alliance with the Houthis. Since then, fractures have emerged between the former leader and the rebels, exacerbating the crisis.
In a televised speech on Saturday, Mr. Saleh blamed the Houthis’ “idiocy” for the war in Yemen and declared that he was ready to turn a “new page” in ties with the coalition if it stopped the attacks on his country.
“I call upon the brothers in neighboring states and the alliance to stop their aggression, lift the siege, open the airports and allow food aid and the saving of the wounded and we will turn a new page by virtue of our neighborliness,” Mr. Saleh said.
It is the second time this year the Houthis have said they have fired missiles toward the UAE. A few months ago they said they had “successfully” test-fired a missile toward the country. However on Twitter, the state agency WAM denied the Houthi rebels had launched a missile toward the United Arab Emirates.
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In a subsequent Tweet, WAM said, “U.A.E. possesses an air defense system capable of dealing with any threat of any kind and the project of Barakah reactor is immune.”
On Sunday, an Iranian analyst, Hamidreza Taraghi, who has close ties to Iran’s leaders, denied any the country had links to the missile attack claimed by the Yemen rebels. Quoted by the NYT, he said that “we have nothing to do with this,” adding that “the Houthis are very capable of hitting targets without our assistance.” But Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia, and its allies insist that Iran has provided the Houthis with such weaponry and say that the rebels are taking commands from Tehran.
The nuclear power plant, in Abu Dhabi’s far western desert, is being built by the Korea Electric Power Corporation near the border with Saudi Arabia and is scheduled to begin operating next year, the United Arab Emirates energy minister has said, according to The Associated Press.