Image Credit: Hugo A. Sanchez/©Gulf News

A few years ago, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, spoke passionately about the unity of the UAE. His words, “Al Bait Mutwah’hed” (the house is united), have since been ingrained in Emirati discourse as a symbol of the country’s unity in the face of all challenges; the challenge of national development as well as the challenges facing the region, posed by the ongoing chaos in the Arab world that was ignited by the uprisings in several Arab states since late 2010.

Today, there is no word nor phrase that can describe the UAE more than those uttered by Shaikh Mohammad. As soon as the news broke about the martyrdom of the our soldiers, every Emirati family felt not only the loss of those 45 precious souls but also the pride that those heroes have brought by making the ultimate sacrifice in serving the homeland and defending the ideals this country was built on.

The UAE has not experienced such loss in its history. Its army has been known around the world for its humanitarian work and peacekeeping missions. These soldiers lost their lives while taking part in another noble mission; they were part of a military campaign and Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, with no option other than to defend the Yemeni people against the tyranny of a well-armed rogue militia that has taken over their country. Backed by foreign powers, mainly Iran, and allied with the powerful forces loyal to deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh, Al Houthi militias have posed a clear and present danger to the strategic security of the Gulf region.

The death of these 45 heroes can very well be our ‘Pearl Harbor’. While Pearl Harbor is more than 7,780 kilometres from Washington, Aden is just a mere 1,600 kilometres from our capital Abu Dhabi.

However, even if this is our Pearl Harbor moment, the UAE will not have a Hiroshima and Nagasaki response. There will no indiscriminate response. The role of the UAE Armed Forces and other coalition troops in Yemen is part of a strategic decision to defend and preserve the security and stability of the Gulf strategic hemisphere.

The UAE was founded on the solid principle, laid out by the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and fathers of the union, that this country is part of the Arab nation. The UAE leadership believes in the solidarity of the Arab nation. We rejoice in its happiness and feel its pain.

Thus, it was not an unusual decision to answer the distress call of the Yemeni people and their legitimate government when the militias bombarded and then invaded Yemeni cities in the north and south of that country.

Therefore, the UAE response, along with that of our coalition partners, to our Pearl Harbor will not be indiscriminate bombing nor the total devastation of Yemen. No. It will be more of working together with the legitimate government of Yemen to drive out the militias and start the rebuilding of the brotherly country.

As we salute the martyrs and share their families’ pride in having the names of the 45 heroes immortalised in UAE history, we fully recognise that ‘our Pearl Harbor’ will only double the determination of the UAE to continue playing its role in Yemen.

The cowardly attack in Marib will not intimidate the Arab coalition into abdicating its responsibility of defending justice and supporting the right of the Yemeni people to live free and dignified lives.

The coalition goals are very clear — to restore the legitimate government, help the people of Yemen rebuild their country and alienate the existential threat to our region and countries. These goals, backed by the international community today take an even more important dimension because they have become a de facto pledge by all those involved in the liberation of Yemeni cities that the blood of martyrs shall not go in vain. Their mission will be completed.

And that is exactly what His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said in his moving tribute to the martyrs on Friday.

“These events will only make us more steadfast in our stand with justice. The sacrifices of our sons only make us prouder of them, and with every passing day, we grow more determined to achieve victory,” he said on his Twitter account.

And victory shall come because the house is united, ‘Al Bait Mutwah’hed’.