Houthis claim drone attacks in Abu Dhabi and Volcanic eruption near Tonga
UAE: Houthis claim drone strikes targeting oil facility in Abu Dhabi
Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for a drone and missile strike targeting an oil facility in the Mussafah district of Abu Dhabi – the capital of the UAE – and Abu Dhabi International Airport on Jan. 17, killing three people and injuring six others. The attack triggered an explosion of three fuel tankers at an oil refinery in the industrial zone located approximately 22 km (13 mi) outside of the center of Abu Dhabi and 39.5 km (24.5 mi) away from the Al-Dhafra Air Base, a military installation that hosts both US and French armed forces. Among the fatalities were two Indians and a Pakistani national; all three were employees of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). The identities of the injured were not disclosed. ADNOC reported that its operations remained uninterrupted by the attack; however, the incident catapulted the price of crude oil to USD 87.75 per barrel, a seven-year high for the UAE. Similarly, the blast caused a fire at the airport resulting in a minor disruption and short delays for Etihad Airways as the airline instituted precautionary measures for passengers. The Houthis have claimed several attacks in Abu Dhabi in recent years but Emirati officials have denied those allegations. The recent incident comes two weeks after the rebel group seized a UAE-flagged ship off the coast of Yemen, indicating an escalation of hostilities against the country, long recognized as a beacon of stability in the region. Since early 2015, the UAE has been a key part of the Saudi-led coalition that has fought to restore legitimacy to the internationally recognized government of Yemen ousted by the Iran-backed Houthis. The UAE claimed to have reduced its ground forces as part of a strategic redeployment in 2019, although various sources have indicated that it continues to support local militias. A Houthi spokesperson, Mohammad Abdulsalam, warned the UAE of further attacks targeting its strategic infrastructure if the country refuses to end its intervention in Yemen. The threat warning will likely trigger an escalation in hostilities in Yemen in the short term; Saudi-led airstrikes on Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, killed 20 people hours after the Houthis claimed responsibility for the attacks in Abu Dhabi. As Yemen’s government-aligned forces – backed by the coalition – continue to inflict heavy losses on the Houthis, similar retaliatory attacks inside the UAE should not be ruled out in the medium-to-long term.
Tonga: Volcanic eruption triggers tsunami warnings across the Pacific
An underwater volcano – formally known as Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai – erupted near Tonga on Jan. 15, triggering 4-foot (1.2 m) tsunami waves and causing widespread destruction to nearby island communities. The eruption prompted tsunami warnings for other Pacific Island nations, Japan, Peru, New Zealand, Australia, and the US West Coast. On Jan. 18, the Tongan government confirmed the deaths of three people – including a British national – and several other injuries; two people were also killed in Peru after being swept off by high waves. Several flights from Australia, New Zealand, and Fjii to Tonga have been postponed as airports in Tonga remain closed. While the full extent of the damage remains unclear due to severed undersea communication cables, initial government reports indicate extensive property and infrastructure destruction to nearby islands, including Mango, Namuka, Ha’apai, Fonoifua and Atata. In addition to heavy flooding, a volcanic ash cloud has extended over the country’s 170 islands – 36 of which are inhabited – contaminating food and water supply and affecting air quality for more than 100,000 people. Experts claimed that the incident was likely the biggest volcanic eruption recorded since Mount Pihabo in the Philippines in 1991. Non-government organizations, including Red Cross and Red Crescent, reportedly secured supplies for 1,200 households but are unable to re-establish contact with the local teams due to the ongoing communications blackout. A geological research institute in New Zealand has issued a threat alert warning of further eruptions in the next several days to weeks, which poses a tsunami risk to Tonga and New Zealand.