After a spate of deadly attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on United Arab Emirates in January this year, France and the US have initiated steps to help Abu Dhabi defend against the threats.
France’s defense minister Florence Parly announced on Friday that French Armed Forces would provide military support, helping UAE protect their airspace against any intrusion.
“Rafale fighter planes, which belong to our permanent force based in Abu Dhabi, are thus engaged alongside the UAE armed forces in surveillance, detection and interception missions if necessary,” Parly said in a statement.
France has been operating out of the Camp de la Paix, a French naval air station in Abu Dhabi, since 2009.
“France and the United Arab Emirates are linked by a strategic partnership, our contribution is part of the application of our defense cooperation agreement,” Parly further said.
The French announcement follows a series of drone and missile attacks against UAE in the past few weeks. UAE is a target of Houthi attacks as it supports the Saudi Arabia-led coalition that has been engaged in a military conflict in Yemen since 2015, when the Houthi group gained control of the Yemen capital Sanaa.
Houthi attacks against UAE have not been a regular occurrence in recent years as Saudi Arabia was in the focus. Before last month’s attacks, the last Houthi-claimed attack on the UAE was in 2018, according to an Al Jazeera timeline of attacks.
In addition the French Rafale fighters, UAE’s defenses will be bolstered by US destroyer USS Cole, which will partner with the UAE Navy before making a port call in Abu Dhabi. US defense secretary Lloyd J. Austin III also revealed that the US would deploy 5th-generation fighter aircraft to assist the UAE against the current threat.
The deployment of USS Cole to the conflict zone near Yemen is highly symbolical for the ship, as it was the target of a terror attack in October 2000, which claimed the lives of 17 sailors. Cole was anchored off the coast of Aden, Yemen, for refueling on October 12, 2000, when suicide bombers pulled alongside the ship, detonating explosives and creating a 40-by-60 foot hole on the port side of the destroyer.