The Saudi-led coalition waging war on Yemen took credit for an airbase that is being built on a small island in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a waterway between Yemen and the Horn of Africa.
The existence of the base was first reported by The Associated Press on Tuesday. The AP report shows satellite images that appear to be a “mysterious airbase” being built on Mayun Island in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. Initially, the UAE was suspected of constructing the base because the Emirates have a history of trying to establish military facilities on Mayun Island and also Yemen’s Socotra Island.
In a statement to the Saudi Press Agency, a coalition spokesperson denied that the base belonged to Abu Dhabi and said it was in control of the Saudi-led coalition. “Some reports in the media with regard to the presence of UAE forces on the Islands of Socotra and Mayun are baseless and unfounded,” the spokesperson said, according to Middle East Eye.
The statement said that coalition forces were “situated there in order to enable the Yemeni legitimacy forces and coalition forces to counter the Houthi militia, secure maritime navigation, and support the West Coast forces.”
In 2019, the UAE pulled some of its forces out of Yemen. Since then, Abu Dhabi has denied that it still plays a major role in the war. But the coalition statement said that the UAE is currently “providing air support” for the current fighting with the Houthis in Yemen’s Maarib province, suggesting there is more UAE involvement than Abu Dhabi claims.
Despite President Biden’s vow to end support for Saudi Arabia’s “offensive” operations in the war, the US is still servicing Saudi warplanes that are bombing Yemen. The Biden administration also refuses to pressure the Saudis into lifting the blockade, which is a key Houthi demand for a ceasefire. The embargo is still being enforced despite UN warnings that 400,000 Yemeni children will starve to death in 2021 if conditions don’t change.