December 12, 2019

Al Houthi Attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE: 2016-2019

The al Houthi movement retains the capability to threaten key Saudi and possibly Emirati infrastructure. Iran has enabled the development of the al Houthis’ advanced attack capabilities over the course of Yemen’s current conflict. The al Houthis escalated real and claimed cross-border attacks against Saudi Arabia in spring and summer 2019 to support an Iranian escalation in the Gulf and pressure the Saudis to accept a ceasefire in Yemen. The al Houthis paused missile and drone attacks targeting Saudi Arabia in September 2019 to pursue negotiations. The US Navy’s interdiction of sophisticated Iranian missile components bound for Yemen in December 2019 signals continued Iranian support for the al Houthi missile threat.

Map Key

Yellow pins: Attacks claimed by the al Houthis. Includes successful and attempted attacks.

Blue pins: Attacks by other actors that the al Houthis falsely claimed.

Green pins: Attacks claimed by al Houthis but denied by Saudi Arabia or the UAE.


Major Events in 2019:
  • May 14: Iranian-backed forces in southern Iraq targeted Saudi Aramco infrastructure. Pro-al Houthi media falsely claimed the attack.
  • May 20: The Saudi-led coalition intercepted an al Houthi ballistic missile near Jeddah.
  • June 12: An al Houthi missile attack injured 26 civilians at Abha Regional Airport in the Asir region of Saudi Arabia.
  • June 19: The al Houthis fired a missile at a Saudi desalination plant near al Shuqaiq in the Jizan region of Saudi Arabia.
  • August 17: The al Houthis launched ten drones at Shaybah Oil Field in southeastern Saudi Arabia near the UAE border. 
  • A prior version mistakenly dated the Abqaiq attack as May 14. The Abqaiq attack occurred on September 14.September 14: The al Houthi movement falsely claimed an attack on the Saudi Aramco facility at Abqaiq. Iran is likely responsible for the attack.


  • For the yellow pins, the 2019 attacks are confirmed or assessed probable. CTP did not make a determination on the validity of the 2016­­–2018 al Houthi claims.
  • The dataset is not exhaustive but captures trends in attack patterns.
  • Some claimed attacks near the Saudi-Yemeni border were likely artillery strikes that al Houthi media falsely labeled ballistic missile strikes.