Yemen naval security beefed up after attack on UAE ship
Sana’a - A vessel transporting wounded Yemenis, aid and civilian passengers was attacked while passing through the Bab el Mandeb strait. It was hit by guided missiles launched by the Iran-allied Houthi rebels, according to a statement by the UAE Foreign Ministry, which called the incident “an act of terrorism”.
The UN Security Council strongly condemned the October 1st attack, saying that it took “threats to shipping around Bab el Mandeb, a strategically important shipping passage, extremely seriously and stressed that freedom of navigation around Bab el Mandeb in accordance with relevant international law must be upheld”, while also calling for a cessation of such attacks.
US State Department spokesman John Kirby called on the Houthis “to immediately cease attacks against all vessels. These provocative actions risk exacerbating the current conflict and narrow the prospects for a peaceful settlement”.
“This condemnation from the international community represents a clear stand against the irresponsible practices of the Houthi militias and the Saleh group who have violated international norms and conventions,” UAE Minister of State Anwar Gargash said in a statement.
“The recurrence of such attacks and targeting of the civilian ship proves that the militias are against any political settlement of the Yemen crisis,” he said.
The attack, which apparently caused no injuries, led the United States to beef up security around Bab el Mandeb. Three US warships are operating off the coast of Yemen, US Defense officials told Fox News. The officials also said that the “shoulder-fired rockets” that nearly destroyed the UAE vessel were supplied to the Houthis by Iran.
“Sending the warships to the area is a message that the primary goal of the (US) Navy is to ensure that shipping continues unimpeded in the strait and the vicinity,” the unnamed US Defense official said.
Additional political manoeuvring by the Houthi militia came a day after the attack. The group announced a “national salvation” government in a bid to rival the internationally recognised government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
It said a cabinet of 27 ministers, headed by former Aden governor Abdel Aziz Ben Habtoor, a long-time associate of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, would run the country’s affairs. The move was rejected by the United Nations, which said it only recognised the Hadi government.
Government sources told The Arab Weekly that UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed was in Oman recently to implement a ceasefire approved by the Hadi government as a prelude to the resumption of peace consultations.
The sources said the Houthis had made a “secret” offer through intermediaries to withdraw from Taiz province but that move was viewed by the Hadi government as being financially motivated.
The offer comes as the Houthis are strapped for funds after Hadi fired the country’s central bank chief Mohammed bin Hammam, replacing him with government loyalist Mansar al-Kaiti and ordered the bank’s headquarters relocated from rebel-controlled Sana’a to government-controlled Aden.
The war in Yemen began when Shia Houthis and their allies overran Sana’a in September 2014, seizing most of the country. Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi-led Arab coalition, supported by the United States and Britain, began an air campaign against the rebels in March 2015. Arab coalition ground troops later entered the fight. According to UN estimates, more than 6,400 people have been killed in the fighting and 2.8 million people displaced.