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Saudi Arabia: Shrapnel from intercepted Houthi drone wounds 12 at Abha airport

Travellers and workers among those injured during incident at the airport which lies close to Yemen's border
The Houthis often target Abha airport and the neighbouring city Khamis Mushait, which lie close to the Yemeni border in Saudi Arabia's south (AFP)

At least 12 people suffered minor injuries caused by shrapnel from a drone intercepted by air defences at Saudi Arabia's Abha airport on Thursday, the Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen's Houthi movement said.

In a statement carried by Saudi Arabia's Al Arabiya TV, the coalition later warned people in the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa to avoid civilian locations used for military purposes during the next 72 hours while they strike drone launch sites.

Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Sarea said the group hit a military target at Abha airport with a Qasef 2 drone.

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"As a result of the interception process, some shrapnel of the drone was scattered after its interception inside the internal perimeter of the airport," coalition spokesman Brigadier General Turki al-Maliki told the Saudi state news agency SPA.

He said Abha was a "civilian airport that is protected under international humanitarian law" and accused the rebels of a "war crime".

Air traffic operations returned to normal after standard safety procedures were carried out, the coalition said.

Shrapnel from the drone attack at midday fell inside airport grounds and some glass facades were damaged, it said.

Light injuries were sustained by two Saudi nationals and citizens of Bangladesh, Nepal, India, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

The coalition has been fighting the Houthis since early 2015, after the group ousted Yemen's internationally recognised government from power in Sanaa.

Detention centre attack

The Houthis often target Abha airport and the neighbouring city Khamis Mushait, located close to the Yemeni border in Saudi Arabia's south, with drones and missiles. 

Most attacks are intercepted but a few people have been killed and several wounded.

The coalition regularly carries out air strikes on what it says are Houthi military targets in Yemen, in a campaign criticised by rights groups for causing thousands of civilian casualties.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), a coalition member, twice in January said its forces destroyed a Houthi ballistic missile launch area in Yemen, after unprecedented drone and missile attacks on the emirates were claimed by the Houthis.

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Those attacks led to a major increase in coalition attacks on Sanaa and other areas in Yemen, including on a detention centre in Saada province, a northern stronghold of the Houthis, that killed around 90 people and wounded more than 200, according to the Houthi administration's health minister.

Earlier this week, the coalition fighting in Yemen invited the Red Cross and the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator to discuss the attack on the detention centre believed to be holding 1,300 pre-trial detainees, as well as 700 migrants when it was hit by three air strikes in quick succession on 21 January.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed directly or indirectly in Yemen's conflict, while millions have been displaced in what the UN calls the world's biggest humanitarian crisis.

On Thursday, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said civilian deaths and injuries in the war have almost doubled since UN human rights monitors were controversially removed in October.

"The removal of this crucial human rights investigative body took us back to unchecked, horrific violations," NRC's Yemen country director Erin Hutchinson said.

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