Missile attack on arms depot kills Emirati soldiers in Yemen; Kerry joins UAE leaders in mourning
Forty-five UAE soldiers were killed while fighting the Houthi rebels in Yemen on Friday, marking the highest death toll on the battlefield in the country’s history. The UAE Armed Forces announced the death of the soldiers on state news agency Wam.
“The General Headquarters of the UAE Armed Forces on Friday mourned 22 of its personnel who died while performing their national duty as part of the Saudi-led Arab coalition in the operation ‘Restoring Hope’ in Yemen,” the report said.
A later report said 23 more soldiers succumbed to their injuries. According to the National Yemen newspaper, among those killed were Ali Hassan Al Shehi, former Emirates Club player and Lieutenant Al Yammahi, who was awarded the sword of honour in the 38th batch of graduates at Zayed Military School.
The army report did not specify how the soldiers were martyred and did not provide details of the deceased.
However, Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, tweeted that a surface-to-surface missile exploded in the ammunition depot targeting the soldiers.
His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, said the whole country is living a new spirit with the sacrifices of the soldiers “who we hold deep in our hearts with pride for their glorious deed”.
He said on his Twitter account @MBZNews that the sacrifices of our heroes make us increasingly proud of the historic stand the UAE has taken with Saudi Arabia in fighting the aggression on the brotherly Yemen.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed that they fired a rocket at a weapons cache in a camp used by Gulf coalition forces in the central Marib area, killing dozens of Emirati and Yemeni soldiers and destroying a number of Apache helicopters and armed vehicles, Reuters reported.
The blast at a military base in Safer, 250km east of Sanaa, also killed several Yemenis, a source at the scene said. Residents in Marib told the agency they saw fire raging at the camp and plumes of smoke.
A video posted on YouTube showed smoke billowing from far and tyres lying strewn all over the ground. Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan received a telephone call from US Secretary of State John Kerry, who offered his condolences over the deaths.
Saudi Arabia and its coalition have been fighting since March to restore Yemen’s exiled government and repel the Houthis, who took control of the capital Sanaa in September last year. Before the latest incident, at least five Emirati soldiers had been killed in Yemen during the Operation Restoring Hope.
Two others were killed in Saudi Arabia as part of the operation. The death of the 45 soldiers on Friday took the total number of UAE martyrs so far to 52. A pall of gloom descended on patriotic UAE and condolences poured in on social media after the news of the casualties mounting broke in the afternoon.
Several leaders, citizens and residents took to Twitter to express their sorrow and offer condolences and prayers. Arabic hash tag #Martyrdom of brave UAE soldiers trended on Twitter.
On his official pages in Instagram and Twitter, Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, prayed to the Almighty to have mercy on the martyrs and give their parents the strength and patience to bear the loss.
Social network sites were inundated with messages with senders announcing their willingness to stand with the families of the martyrs. @KBinhendi posted: “May the martyrs we lost rest in peace. RIP #UAE Soldiers. #Yemen” @Bandaralshafi said it is a loss for the whole of GCC, not just the UAE.
Sending condolences to the families of the martyrs, @AhmedBinAbdullah said the Sharjah Club members would wear black badges in the match on Friday to pay homage to the fallen troopers.
Saudi media outlets circulated news on Saudi citizens thronging Sharurah hospital in the Kingdom to donate blood for the wounded Emirati soldiers.
Tweeters praised the martyrs’ role in defending the country, and prayed to Allah to have mercy upon them. Appreciating the role the martyrs had played, they said and the UAE will not forget them, and no intimidation or alike will deter the UAE from responding to the call of duty for defending the UAE and the rest of the GCC states.
Funerals for the soldiers, all from Brigade 107, will be held from Saturday, according to Al Arabiya.
The UAE has designated November 30 as Martyr’s Day to pay tributes to the heroes who lost their lives while performing their national duty within and outside the country. Shaikh Khalifa on August 19 ordered Martyr’s Day be a national holiday.