Middle East

Yemen’s Houthis say they attacked Maersk Sentosa ship in Arabian Sea

AL-MUKALLA: A commercial ship off the east coast of Yemen was targeted on Tuesday by an attack believed to have been carried out by the Houthis, according to a British maritime agency that tracks assaults on vessels. It marked the end of more than a week without any reported assaults by the militia on ships in international shipping lanes.

United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said the captain of a commercial ship reported an incident 180 nautical miles east of Nishtun, a town in Yemen’s eastern Al-Mahra province.

“The master of a merchant vessel reports an explosion in close proximity to the vessel. Vessel and all crew are safe. The vessel is proceeding to its next port of call,” the organization said.

The most recent confirmed Houthi strike in waters off Yemen’s coast before this was on June 28, near the western province of Hodeidah. Since launching its campaign targeting international shipping in November, the Houthis have attacked vessels in the Red Sea and other waters using hundreds of ballistic missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles and explosive-laden drone boats. They stepped up attacks in June, with almost daily strikes on commercial and naval ships in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.

The militia say they are acting in support of the Palestinian people, to compel Israeli authorities to halt their military operations in the Gaza Strip. But critics say the Houthis are using outrage in Yemen over Israel’s actions in Gaza as a rationale for the resumption their war in Yemen, and as an excuse to attack ships in an attempt to boost public support, recruit more fighters, and distract from their failures to address crumbling public services and pay public-sector workers.

In recent statements, Houthi spokesperson Yahya Sarea said the group was working with an Iraqi militia to organize coordinated operations against Israeli targets and ships in international waters that were not validated by marine agencies. On Monday, he said the militia and the Islamic Resistance in Iraq were responsible for a drone attack on “a vital location” in the Israeli port city of Eilat.

Meanwhile, the Houthis canceled a Yemenia Airways flight from Sanaa to Amman on Monday, angering passengers who had booked tickets. The Houthis justified their decision by blaming “aggression” by authorities in refusing to agree to the militia’s demands that the airline schedule flights from Sanaa to additional destinations, including Cairo and India.

The Houthis recently took control of four Yemenia aircraft at Sanaa airport and prevented them from flying to Saudi Arabia to bring home hundreds of Yemeni pilgrims. A Yemeni government official told Arab News on Tuesday that the militia are trying to put pressure on the government to add flights to new destinations in return for the release of the seized aircraft.

The Houthis also oppose a Yemeni government plan to relocate the country’s Civil Aviation and Meteorology Authority from Sanaa to Aden, which would deprive the militia of a key source of revenue and the ability to regulate aircraft operations.

“They now aim to enforce a fait accompli by establishing new destinations and halting any efforts to relocate the navigational meteorological center from Sanaa to Aden,” said the official, who asked not to be named.

The most recent draft of a UN-brokered peace agreement includes a pledge by the Yemeni government to authorize additional Yemenia routes from Sanaa in return for a Houthi agreement to lift their siege on Taiz.


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