Yemen’s Houthi rebels destroyed food warehouses in a missile and drone attack on a newly refurbished commercial seaport in the country’s south-west on Saturday.
“The Houthi militia targeted Mokha port with four missiles and three explosive-laden drones at 10am on Saturday,” said Fares Al Hossam, a media officer for the pro-government Al Amalika Brigades, which are fighting the rebels along the country’s western coast.
“The Houthis attacked the port a few weeks after it was officially reopened following months of maintenance work,” he told The National.
Mr Al Hossam said no casualties had been reported but the missiles had destroyed warehouses containing food stockpiles that belong to traders and humanitarian agencies that work on Yemen’s western coast.
Bassam Al Muflehy, head of the transport minister’s office, said the attack was timed to coincide with a visit by senior government officials.
“The Houthis attacked the port at the same a high-level delegation was visiting,” he told The National.
“The delegation arrived at the harbour 10 minutes before the attack, including the head of the Environment Protection Authority, the director of the Maritime Economics and Transport Authority and the port director.
“All the team members weren’t harmed and they are in safe place now.”
The commercial seaport in Mokha city has been associated with coffee trading for hundreds of years, imparting its name to the variety widely known as mocha.
The Houthis seized control of the port in November 2014 in a southern offensive launched months after they seized the capital, Sanaa, in northern Yemen.
They were using the port to smuggle in weapons bound for their strongholds in the north until they were driven out in January 2017 by pro-government troops backed by a Saudi-led military coalition.
The government announced in July that the port would resume commercial operations after years of suspension because of the war.
International UN-led efforts to end Yemen’s conflict have so far made little headway. The new UN special envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, said on Friday that the Arab world’s poorest nation was “stuck in an indefinite state of war”.
Mr Grundberg, a Swedish diplomat who took up the post last week after serving as the European Union’s ambassador to Yemen since 2019, told the UN Security Council that “there are no quick wins” in Yemen’s civil war.
He said he planned to review what had and had not worked, and “listen to as many Yemeni men and women as possible”.
“The conflict parties have not discussed a comprehensive settlement since 2016,” Mr Grundberg said. “It is, therefore, long overdue for the conflict parties to engage in peaceful dialogue with one another under UN facilitation on the terms of an overarching settlement, in good faith and without preconditions.”