Drone attack claimed by Yemen's Houthi rebels targeting a key oil facility in Abu Dhabi kills three people, two Indians and a Pakistani, and sparks a fire at Abu Dhabi’s international airport.

Yemeni rebels ask UAE civilians, foreign firms to avoid
Yemeni rebels ask UAE civilians, foreign firms to avoid "vital installations." (AFP / AFP)

The United Arab Emirates has vowed retaliation on Yemen's Houthi rebels after the group claimed an attack that killed three people in Abu Dhabi.

UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan described the attack as a "heinous criminal escalation" in a statement on Monday.

"We condemn the Houthi terrorist militia's targeting of civilian areas and facilities on UAE soil today ... this sinful targeting will not go unpunished," said Al Nahyan.

A drone attack claimed by Houthi rebels targeted a key oil facility in Abu Dhabi, killing three people and sparking a fire at Abu Dhabi’s international airport.

Emirati police identified the dead as two Indian nationals and one Pakistani. Six people were also wounded at an industrial area where Abu Dhabi’s state-owned energy company runs a pipeline network and an oil tanker storage facility.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also condemned the drone attack and called on "all parties to exercise maximum restraint and prevent any escalation," according to his spokesman.

"Attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure are prohibited by international humanitarian law," Stephane Dujarric added in comments to reporters after the attack, which the United Arab Emirates has blamed on Yemen's Houthi rebels.

The US vowed to hold the rebels "accountable", as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation also condemned the attack.

READ MORE: Deadly 'drone strike' hits UAE as Houthis announce military operations

Warning shot from rebels

The UAE is part of a Saudi-led military coalition that supports Yemen's government against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who have repeatedly targeted Saudi Arabia with cross border strikes.

But this is the first deadly assault on its own soil that the UAE has blamed on the rebels who had earlier announced a "military operation" in the UAE.

Abdul Ilah Hajar, adviser to the president of the Houthis' Supreme Political Council in Sanaa, said it was a warning shot from the rebels.

"We sent them a clear warning message by hitting places that are not of great strategic importance," he told AFP news agency.

"But it is a warning if the UAE continues its hostility to Yemen, it will not be able in the future to withstand the coming strikes."

The incident comes two weeks after the rebels hijacked the UAE-flagged Rwabee, and released footage purporting to show military equipment on board.

The UAE said the Rwabee, whose 11 crew are now hostages, was a "civilian cargo vessel" and called the hijacking a "dangerous escalation" in the busy Red Sea shipping route.

The rebels later rejected a UN Security Council demand for the ship's immediate release, saying it was "not carrying ... toys for children but weapons for extremists".

READ MORE: Yemen rebels capture UAE ship carrying 'military supplies'

Source: AFP