White House has said the US military "responded to an inbound missile threat on the UAE" in order to support efforts by the Emirati armed forces.

At the Pentagon, press secretary John Kirby said that “US Patriots were fired, but it was the Emirati surface-to-air missiles that actually engaged the targets.”
At the Pentagon, press secretary John Kirby said that “US Patriots were fired, but it was the Emirati surface-to-air missiles that actually engaged the targets.” (AFP)

The US military has launched interceptor missiles during an attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels that targeted the United Arab Emirates during a visit by Israel's president.

Speaking from the White House, press secretary Jen Psaki said late on Monday the US military "responded to an inbound missile threat on the UAE.

“This involved the employment of Patriot interceptors to ... (support) efforts by the armed forces of the UAE,” Psaki said. “I would say we are working quite closely with them.”

At the Pentagon, press secretary John Kirby said that “US Patriots were fired, but it was the Emirati surface-to-air missiles that actually engaged the targets.”

Asked if that would include targets outside of Al Dhafra, Kirby said: “If we can help defend our Emirati partners, we’re going to do that.”

Biden also mentioned the attack on the UAE at the White House during a visit by Qatar's ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, saying that “America will have the backs of our friends in the region.”

READ MORE: UAE 'destroys' Houthi ballistic missile as Israel's Herzog visits

US involvement in Yemen

The acknowledgement by the White House and Pentagon represent a widening American involvement in Yemen's years-long war, a conflict that President Joe Biden declared nearly a year ago “has to end.”

While the US has ended offensive support to the Saudi-led coalition fighting on behalf of Yemen's exiled government, their involvement in defending the UAE comes as the rebel Houthis have declared Al Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi a target. 

Al Dhafra hosts some 2,000 American troops and has served as a major base of operations for everything from armed drones to F-35 stealth fighters.

The Emirati military, as with a similar attack last week, did not acknowledge that the American military opened fire. 

The autocratic UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula, has threatened criminal charges against anyone filming an attack or outgoing interceptor fire.

The UAE’s state-run WAM news agency reported on 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, though American Patriot missiles are thought only to be deployed at Al Dhafra.

READ MORE: Where is Yemen’s conflict(s) headed?

Source: AP