Houthi-backed Al Masirah TV announced the attack and claimed the rebels had targeted the airport with a cruise missile.
Almalki stressed that in the face of the Houthi militia's terrorist attacks as well as its immoral violations, the Command of Joint Forces of the Coalition would take urgent and timely measures to deter such attacks and ensure the protection of civilians and civilian objects. The other 18 were discharged after receiving first aid, he said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA). The Houthis deny being puppets of Iran and say their revolution is against corruption.
The nearest Patriot battery to Abha airport is about 20 km to the north, said Jeremy Binnie, Middle East & Africa editor of Jane's Defence Weekly.
A Houthi military spokesman said the attack was a response to the coalition's "crimes" against Yemen.
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More recently, they have launched bomb-laden drones targeting a key oil pipeline and the southwest city of Khamis Mushait.
A Houthi military spokesman on Tuesday threatened that the group, which has been battling the Saudi military alliance in Yemen for four years, would target every airport in Saudi Arabia and that the coming days would reveal "big surprises".
The rebels have also stepped up drone and missile attacks on the kingdom amid tensions between Iran and the United States, Riyadh's main ally.
The attack is just the latest in a wave of rebel drone and missile attacks targeting the kingdom, which has been mired in a yearslong war in Yemen that has killed an estimated 60,000 people and pushed the Arab world's poorest nation to the brink of starvation.
"What is required is a clear and strict worldwide stance towards the Houthis and their Iranian backing", said Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa. But the unusually-high casualty toll is the latest signal that the group's attacks on the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
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The uptick in violence comes as a UN-led peace push falters despite the rebels' unilateral withdrawal from the lifeline Red Sea port of Hodeida last month.
Al-Maliki described the attack as a "terrorist act".
The Yemeni government has accused United Nations envoy Martin Griffiths of bias towards the rebels despite the Security Council's expression of renewed support in him on Monday.
Since then, the conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, many of them civilians, pushing the Arab world's poorest country to the brink of starvation.
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