The United Nations on Tuesday expressed "great concern" over claims the rebel-held Yemeni ports around Hodeidah were being used for military purposes and announced plans for an inspection.
The Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen said last week that Houthi rebels use the civilian ports at Hodeidah and nearby Al Saleef and Ras Isa for arms smuggling and to launch attacks on global shipping.
The Houthis have used long-range ballistic missiles, which can strike oil infrastructure in the region. Last week, they hijacked the Emirati-flagged Rawabi in the waters near Ras Isa.
The UN mission to Hodeidah, known by the acronym UNMHA, called the ports a “crucial lifeline for millions of Yemenis” who have been ravaged by years of war between rebel, government and foreign forces.
“UNMHA notes with great concern the allegations of the militarization of the Hodeidah ports," the mission said in a statement.
“UNMHA has requested as part of its mandate to undertake an inspection and stands ready to address concerns pertaining to any militarization of the ports.”
The UN urged Yemen’s warring forces to act with “restraint” and “preserve the civilian character of public infrastructure” in the ports, which are close to one of the world's busiest maritime lanes leading to the Suez Canal.
A spokesman for the Houthi rebels did not immediately respond to The National’s request for comment.
The UAE has accused the Iran-aligned Houthis of an “act of piracy” after the seizure of the Rawabi, saying it was carrying equipment for a field hospital.
The hijacking on January 3 raised fears that Yemen’s protracted war could spill over into the Red Sea, a key shipping route, and make it harder for aid, fuel and other goods to reach millions of Yemenis via the ports.
UNMHA is aimed at maintaining the Hodeidah Agreement, a ceasefire for the port agreed at Yemen's most recent peace talks, held in Sweden in 2018.