Arab Coalition destroys booby-trapped Houthi terror boat in Red Sea

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urges Iran to put pressure on rebels to end the war

A Yemeni family sit in a camp for internally displaced persons on the outskirts of Sanaa. EPA
A Yemeni family sit in a camp for internally displaced persons on the outskirts of Sanaa. EPA

The Arab Coalition thwarted an imminent attack by a Houthi booby-trapped boat in the southern Red Sea on Monday, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The interception of the explosive-rigged vessel came after remarks by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday, in which he urged Iran to pressure the rebels to join peace negotiations.

“The Houthi militia continues to threaten shipping lines and global trade,” the coalition said in a statement.

“The terrorist Houthi militia uses the Stockholm Agreement as an umbrella to launch hostile attacks from Al Hodeidah Governorate.”

The Stockholm Agreement was a UN-led deal in 2019 to de-escalate the conflict.

But violence in Yemen has since worsened and the Houthis have launched a major offensive towards the governorate of Marib, in addition to firing explosive drones and missiles at populous parts of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabian naval and air forces frequently intercept Houthi explosive boats in the Red Sea, to preserve the free movement of ships in the area that carry up to 8 per cent of global oil supplies.

Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia have escalated in recent months, despite renewed US diplomatic efforts to persuade Iran to rein in rebel activities.

“Saudi Arabia’s position is clear in supporting a peaceful solution in Yemen,” Mr Blinken said on Sunday.

He said Iran must use its influence to move the Houthis towards ending the war.

Before his visit to the region, Mr Blinken stressed the need for a lasting solution to the conflict in Yemen.

“We need to see the same kind of response from the Houthis who continue to hold out, and Iran should use the influence it has to move them in that direction,” he told CNN.

The US maintains a degree of military influence in the conflict, and held joint exercises with the Saudi Arabian air force on Saturday.

US General Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command in the Middle East, said on Sunday that the American and Saudi Arabian militaries had improved co-operation significantly.

“It’s not necessarily the number of things that you’ve got. It’s how effectively you use the things that you do have, and so we’ve made great progress with that with the Saudis over the last couple of years. I feel very good about that, actually,” he said.

Iranian influence

Iran has continued to supply the Houthis with weapons, including long-range explosive drones and ballistic missiles that have been fired at populated areas of Saudi Arabia.

The Arab coalition intercepted and destroyed eight drones and three ballistic missiles launched by the militia towards Saudi Arabia on the first day of Eid Al Fitr this year.

Similar attacks have been made in the past. A tanker anchored at Jeddah port was hit by an explosive-laden boat in December and another at a different terminal was damaged.

Attacks have continued despite the kingdom announcing a peace initiative in March that included a nationwide ceasefire, the reopening of Sanaa airport and the easing of restrictions on Hodeidah port.

Humanitarian efforts continue

Following Riyadh’s entreaty for peace, Saudi Arabian efforts to ease the suffering of the Yemeni people continue on the ground.

The Saudi Project for Landmine Clearance dismantled 2,500 mines in Yemen, including 1,500 anti-tank mines and 1,000 unexploded ordinances, during the third week of May, SPA said.

More than 1.1 million mines have reportedly been planted by the Houthis, killing many civilians and seriously injuring others, the agency reported.

A total of 249,366 mines have been dismantled by King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre’s project for clearing mines.

But no end to the seven-year conflict is in sight.

In response to US sanctions placed on two Houthi militia leaders two weeks ago, the rebels threatened on Sunday to launch more attacks on unexpected locations in Arab coalition countries.

“Sanctions do not scare the mujahideen,” tweeted Mohammed Ali Al Houthi, president of the Houthi supreme revolutionary committee.

Updated: May 25, 2021 10:13 AM

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