Israeli President Isaac Herzog speaks at Expo 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. The UAE intercepted a ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels early Monday as the Israeli president visited the country, authorities said, the third such attack in recent weeks. (AP Photo)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The United Arab Emirates intercepted a ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels early Monday as the Israeli president, Isaac Herzog, was visiting the country, authorities said, the third such attack in as many weeks.

The attack only fuels ongoing tensions in the wider Persian Gulf, which has seen a series of attacks as Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers unravels and Yemen’s years long war rages on.

As negotiators in Vienna now attempt to revive the accord and Emirati-backed forces press on the Iran-backed Houthis, the rebels are launching their longest-range attacks yet — a major challenge for the Emirates, which advertises itself to international businesses as a safe corner of an otherwise-dangerous neighborhood.

The UAE’s state-run WAM news agency reported Monday’s interception, saying “the attack did not result in any losses, as the remnants of the ballistic missile fell outside the populated areas.”

It wasn’t immediately clear where the remnants fell. The country’s civilian air traffic control agency said there was no effect on air travel in the UAE, home to the long-haul carriers Emirates and Etihad.

The country’s top prosecutor has threatened that people who film or post images of such an incident would face criminal charges in the UAE, an autocratic federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula, making reporting on such incidents even more complicated for journalists.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog attends a ceremony at Expo 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. The United Arab Emirates intercepted a ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels early Monday as the Israeli president visited the country, authorities said, the third such attack in recent weeks. (AP Photo)

Instead, the Emirati Defense Ministry released black-and-white footage it described as showing the destruction of a ballistic missile launcher in Yemen’s al-Jawf province some 30 minutes after the attack — just as it did after last week’s attack, leading analysts to suggest the Emiratis may be receiving Western intelligence assistance for its strikes.

Al-Jawf is some 1,350 kilometers (840 miles) southwest of Abu Dhabi.

Houthi military spokesman Yehia Sarei gave a press conference later Monday, claiming that the rebels had targeted “sensitive sites” in Abu Dhabi and Dubai with both Zulfiqar ballistic missiles and drones, without offering evidence for his assertions.

He repeated the group’s warnings that the headquarters of international companies will be targeted in further attacks.

“The Emirates will remain an adversary as long as the actions of the Israeli enemy continue in Abu Dhabi and Dubai,” Sarei shouted from the podium.

The Emirati and Israeli flags fly overhead as Israeli President Isaac Herzog gives a speech at Expo 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. The UAE intercepted a ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels early Monday as the Israeli president visited the country, authorities said, the third such attack in recent weeks. (AP Photo)

Herzog, Israel’s largely ceremonial president, was in the UAE on Monday for the first official visit by an Israeli head of state to the Gulf Arab nation. The day before, he held extensive talks with Abu Dhabi’s powerful Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in the capital, where he stressed Israel’s support for the UAE’s “security requirements” and condemned the recent attacks.

Herzog on Monday visited Dubai’s Expo 2020 world’s fair, which the Houthis had previously threatened to target. From the site’s centerpiece dome, he delivered a carefully worded speech extolling Israel’s innovations, its presence at the fair and growing economic cooperation with the UAE.

He arrived at the Israeli flag-raising ceremony surrounded by some dozen close protection officers in dark suits.

“Israelis and Emiratis are standing together, learning each other’s cultures and languages,” Herzog said, rattling off figures about the countries’ cooperation: $1 billion in trade, the establishment of a $100 million research and development fund, 250,000 Israelis who so far have visited the UAE’s coastal cities.

“I look forward to the great accomplishments that will undoubtedly emerge from the seeds planted right here, together,” he added. “This was a decision not only to normalize ties but to shape a new tomorrow.”

He urged more nations to recognize Israel as part of the so-called Abraham Accords before being swiftly shepherded away.

Men blow shofars, a musical instrument made from an animal horn, after a speech by Israeli President Isaac Herzog at Expo 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. The UAE intercepted a ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels early Monday as the Israeli president visited the country, authorities said, the third such attack in recent weeks. (AP Photo)

The AP, along with other international media, was ordered by Dubai’s Expo 2020 not to release images or video of Herzog’s visit to the site until the afternoon. Expo officials say the order came at the request of Israeli officials.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price condemned the Houthi attack. “While Israel’s president is visiting the UAE to build bridges and promote stability across the region, the Houthis continue to launch attacks that threaten civilians,” Price wrote on Twitter.

From Tehran, Saeed Khatibzadeh, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson, condemned the Israeli president’s visit to the UAE.

“Invasion, expansionism and crisis-making are part of the nature of Israel’s policy,” he told reporters, describing the normalization of relations with Israel as a source of “rift-making in the Islamic and Arab worlds.”

When asked about Monday’s Houthi missile attack on the UAE, Khatibzadeh struck a softer note, saying the “cycle of violence should come to an end.”

In the hours after the attack, Syrian state-run media said an Israeli strike hit near Damascus. The Israeli military did not immediately acknowledge it.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in December made his first official visit to the UAE and held talks with Sheikh Mohammed The visits came after the UAE and Bahrain recognized Israel and established diplomatic relations in 2020 — a move condemned by Palestinian leaders as a betrayal of their cause.

Last week, a similar attack saw both Emirati and U.S. forces fire interceptor missiles bring down a Houthi missile near Al-Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi, which hosts some 2,000 American troops. The U.S. military did not respond to requests for comment on Monday’s missile interception.

The week before, a Houthi drone-and-missile attack struck an Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. fuel depot, killing three people and wounding six as South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited the UAE.

The attacks have helped propel benchmark Brent crude oil prices above $90 a barrel, further squeezing a global economy grappling with inflation in the coronavirus pandemic.

Although the UAE has largely withdrawn its own forces from Yemen, it still supports militias fighting the Houthis, who seized Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in September 2014. A Saudi-led coalition, which the UAE is a part of, entered the conflict in March 2015.

Iran has denied arming the Houthis, though U.N. reports, independent analysts and Western nations point to evidence showing Tehran’s link to the weapons. Experts, however, debate how much direct control Tehran exercises over the Houthis.

Attacks after the first round of Houthi missiles in January saw the Saudi coalition strike a prison and kill some 90 people, as well as knock Yemen off the internet for days.

While Emirati troops have been killed over the course of the conflict, until this month the war had not affected daily life in the UAE, a country with a vast foreign workforce.

___

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On volatile border between India and China, a high-altitude military buildup is underway

0003

A close-up of a heliport under construction in Rutog County.

0001

On volatile border between India and China, a high-altitude military buildup is underway

0004

Construction crews are now scattered around Ladakh as Indian authorities speed up their infrastructure race with China.

0005

An overview of a heliport under construction near Aksai Chin Lake, in a region administered by China but contested by India, on May 28.

0002

An overview of a heliport under construction in Rutog County in the Ngari Prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, on Nov. 28.

0003 0001 0004 0005 0002

BEIJING’S ISLAND-BUILDING IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA

Runway

Runway

China is expanding the construction of its facilities on Fiery Cross Reef. Provided by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), this June 28, 2015 photo reveals Beijing has nearly completed a 3,000 meter (9,800-foot) airstrip, long enough to accommodate most Chinese military aircraft. Two h...

Expansion

Expansion

Reclamation on Fiery Cross Reef, which lies on the west side of the Spratly Islands, began in August of 2014 and its principal landmass was finished by November. Dredgers have created a land mass that spans the entire existing reef and is approximately 3,000 meters long and 200-300 meters wide.

Facilities

Facilities

This picture taken last November shows construction work being carried out on Fiery Cross Reef. The reef reportedly already houses a helicopter landing pad, a 300-meter-long wharf, a harbor large enough to dock military tankers, barracks and artillery emplacements.

South Johnson Reef

South Johnson Reef

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A naval base?

A naval base?

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From reef to island

From reef to island

Significant construction on Gaven Reef began in 2014, with a total of 114,000 square meters of land already created. Satellite pictures show just how fast construction has progressed on the reef. A new artificial island was created between March (left) and August (right) 2014.

Troop garrison

Troop garrison

According to AMTI, China has had a troop garrison on Gaven Reef since 2003, which has included a large supply platform where ships can dock. Experts say a new main square building in the reef appears to be an anti-aircraft tower.

A standardized process

A standardized process

As seen in this image, the basic process of expanding these features involves dredging sand from the seafloor and dumping it onto the reefs. The structure is raised above the high water line, hiding the status of the bank or reef beneath. The sand is then smoothed out and workers surround the island...

'Historic rights'

'Historic rights'

China claims most of the potentially energy-rich waterway, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The US Pacific Fleet commander recently said China was "creating a great wall of sand" in the South China Sea, causing serious concerns about its territorial intentions. Beijin...

Territorial disputes

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The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims, which have led to territorial disputes in the area. Last summer, China's deployment of a massive oil rig in waters also claimed by Hanoi escalated tensions in the region, sparking a standoff at sea and violent anti-C...

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US concerns

Washington is concerned China's efforts carry a military dimension that could undermine the US' naval and economic power in the Pacific, and has weighed sending warships and surveillance aircraft within 12 nautical miles of the new artificial islands. Washington has repeatedly called on Beijing and ...

Ecological impact

Ecological impact

The Philippines filed a formal plea at the UN last year, challenging Beijing's territorial claims. Manila said China's reclamation activities are causing "irreversible and widespread damage to the biodiversity and ecological balance of the South China Sea." It also claimed that the destruction of co...

Runway Expansion Facilities South Johnson Reef A naval base? From reef to island Troop garrison A standardized process 'Historic rights' Territorial disputes US concerns Ecological impact

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