The Houthi armed forces in Yemen seized a ship flying the UAE flag in the Red Sea. As the long-term war escalated, they opened up another front with Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi-led coalition intervened in the civil war in this impoverished country in 2015, calling on the rebels allied with Iran to release the ship immediately and threatening to “use force” to ensure its release.
Brigadier General Yahya Sarri, spokesperson for the Houthi armed forces, stated that the “military cargo ship” of the United Arab Emirates “entered Yemen’s waters without any permission and engaged in hostile actions against the safety and stability of the Yemeni people.”
The Saudi Alliance stated that the vessel, Rwabee, was seized late Sunday while transporting equipment from a decommissioned field hospital on Socotra Island to the Saudi port of Jazan, including ambulances, communications equipment and security support. Equipment and other goods.
“This kind of piracy… This is a credible threat that highlights the dangers of terrorist Houthi militias to freedom of navigation and international trade,” it said in a statement issued by the Saudi official news agency.
The incident marked the first detention of international shipping by the Houthis since 2019, when the rebels briefly detained ships flying South Korean and Saudi flags in the waters off Yemen.
The ship’s seizure represented a further escalation of the bloody fighting in Yemen, which pushed the country to the brink of famine. Saudi Arabia intervened for the first time in 2015, leading a coalition of nations, including the UAE, seeking to restore the government overthrown by the Houthi. The UAE withdrew its troops from Yemen in 2019.
Over the years, the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and its regional enemy Iran has been deadlocked. The Houthis control the more populous northern highlands, while the Riyadh coalition government is located in the southern port city of Aden.
Riyadh and Tehran held several rounds of talks last year as they tried to ease tensions by possibly resuming diplomatic relations that were interrupted in 2016. The war in Yemen has always been an important issue on the agenda. Saudi Arabia accuses the Houthis of relying on Iran for armaments, but the rebels deny this accusation.
In recent weeks, the Houthis and coalition forces have conducted more tit-for-tat violence, including cross-border naval and missile attacks on civilians and oil targets in the kingdom, as well as Saudi air strikes on the capital Sana’a.
Ground fighting is still concentrated in the natural gas-rich province of Malibu, where thousands of Houthi soldiers launched an attack on the region’s main city east of Sana’a, which is still under internationally recognized government control.
The escalation of fighting has undermined the efforts of the United Nations to establish a lasting ceasefire and facilitate political negotiations to end the conflict that has caused tens of thousands of deaths and displacement of millions.