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US warns against travel to UAE citing Houthi drone and missile attacks

Houthis have upped their rhetoric against the Gulf sheikdom in recent days, taking aim at its position as a business and tourism hub for the region
Tourists arrive at Dubai airport in the United Arab Emirates, on 8 July 2020 (AFP)

The United States has advised its citizens not to travel to the United Arab Emirates over the threat of missile or drone attacks from Yemen-based Houthi rebels.

The State Department on Thursday retained its highest level travel warning for the UAE given the threat of Covid-19, but also updated it to include the threat of more Houthi attacks. 

"Reconsider travel due to the threat of missile or drone attacks," the notice said.

"The possibility of attacks affecting US citizens and interests in the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula remains an ongoing, serious concern.

"Rebel groups operating in Yemen have stated an intent to attack neighboring countries, including the UAE, using missiles and drones. Recent missile and drone attacks targeted populated areas and civilian infrastructure."

On 17 January, a suspected drone attack claimed by the Houthis targeted an oil facility in Abu Dhabi, killing three people: one Pakistani national and two Indians. 

Houthis threaten to attack Dubai Expo if Yemen war not halted
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On Monday, the UAE and US intercepted ballistic missiles fired by the Houthis at Abu Dhabi and Dubai that were also targeting an air base hosting US military personnel in the country.  

The Iran-aligned group is fighting against a Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen in which the UAE participates.

The Emirati-funded Giants Brigades have forced the Houthis out of the southern Shabwah province and also made inroads against the group in the strategic Marib governorate.

In recent days the Houthis have upped their rhetoric against the Gulf sheikdom, taking aim at its position as a business and tourism hub for the region. 

In a cryptic tweet on Tuesday, a Houthi military spokesperson suggested that the group was eyeing the Dubai Expo for a new attack. "Expo! You may not win with us, and we advise that you change your location," Yahya Saree said on Twitter.

The Dubai Expo has attracted visitors from across the globe. The UAE invested $7bn in the event this year with the hope of drawing 25 million guests, as it looks to reboot its tourism and service sector dependent economy after the coronavirus pandemic.

The threat made on Twitter against the exhibition comes less than a day after the Houthis urged foreign companies to leave the UAE.

Dubai alone is home to 45 Middle East and Africa headquarters of multinational companies, and more than 21,000 African companies

Israeli President Isaac Herzog is set to travel to the UAE on Sunday, the first official visit by an Israeli president.

He is slated to meet Abu Dhabi's powerful Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, who invited him and other top Emirati officials during the two-day visit.