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Sun 16 Jun 2019 08:59 AM

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Saudi Arabia downs drone in latest airport attack

The incident came just a day after the Saudi-led coalition said five drones targeted airports in Abha and Jizan

Saudi Arabia downs drone in latest airport attack

Saudi forces on Saturday intercepted a Yemeni rebel drone targeting the southern city of Abha, a Riyadh-led military coalition said, the latest in a series of assaults this week.

The unmanned drone was downed with no casualties or damage reported in a coalition statement released by the official Saudi Press Agency.

The Iran-aligned Huthi rebels declared drone attacks on the airports of Abha and southern Jizan city, with a spokesman on rebel-run Al-Masirah TV promising "painful days" for the Saudi regime in response to its bombing campaign in Yemen.

The rebels claimed their drones targeted a fuel station at Abha airport and control rooms for unmanned aerial vehicles at Jizan airport.

The rebels, who have faced persistent coalition bombing since March 2015 that has exacted a heavy civilian death toll, have stepped up missile and drone attacks across the border in recent weeks and warned that coalition airports were valid targets. 

On Wednesday, a rebel missile attack on Abha airport left 26 civilians wounded, drawing promises of "stern action" from the coalition.

And on Friday, the coalition said five Huthi drones targeted Abha airport and the nearby city of Khamis Mushait, which houses a major airbase used as a launchpad for the coalition's bombing campaign.

Human Rights Watch denounced Wednesday's strike as an apparent "war crime", urging the Huthis to immediately stop all attacks on civilian infrastructure in Saudi Arabia.

The attacks come amid spiralling regional tensions with Iran, which Saudi Arabia has repeatedly accused of arming the rebels with sophisticated weapons. Tehran denies the charge. 

Following recent rebel attacks, Saudi state media has reported the coalition was intensifying its air raids on rebel positions in the northern Yemeni province of Hajjah.

The coalition also launched air strikes on the rebel-held capital Sanaa, Saudi state television reported on Saturday. 

The coalition intervened in support of the Yemeni government in 2015 when President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi fled into Saudi exile as the rebels closed in on his last remaining territory in and around second city Aden.

Since then, the conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, many of them civilians, relief agencies say.

It has triggered what the UN describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 24 million Yemenis -- more than two-thirds of the population -- in need of aid.