Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 September 2019

Coalition strikes destroy Yemeni rebels' boat bombs

Nine vessels packed with explosives were intended for attacks on shipping, government forces say

A member of a coast guard force that took over control of Yemen's Hodeidah port from Houthi rebels in May 2019. Reuters
A member of a coast guard force that took over control of Yemen's Hodeidah port from Houthi rebels in May 2019. Reuters

Arab Coalition air strikes destroyed nine Houthi explosive boats intended to target international shipping off Yemen's Red Sea coast, pro-government forces said on Friday.

The boats were positioned in the area between the port of Hodeidah and Al Saleef port to the north, Colonel Wathah Al Dubaish, spokesman for the Coalition-supported Joint Forces, told The National.

Col Al Dubaish said the air strikes launched at 1am on Friday followed several days of monitoring by the Saudi-led coalition.

“The operation launched by the Arab Coalition comes within the legal objectives to protect international navigation routes and global trade in Bab Al Mandeb and the Red Sea,” he said.

The Coalition last year displayed a Houthi "suicide boat" packed with explosives to be driven into the side of other vessels that was captured in the Red Sea in early 2017. It was presented along with other military hardware that bore evidence of Iranian origin, contradicting Tehran's claim that it was not arming the rebels. Three similar suicide boats were destroyed in an attempted attack on a Saudi oil tanker near Hodeidah in January 2018.

Col Al Dubaish said the Coalition regularly targeted similar vessels launched by the Houthis near Hodeidah and in the Bab Al Mandeb strait.

“This is the result of the Houthis' show of withdrawing from the ports of Hodeidah, which was celebrated by the UN," he said. "The Houthis didn’t withdraw but intensified their terror actions inside and outside the ports. They have been busy manufacturing that explosive boats, that is the fact.”

The rebels announced a unilateral withdrawal from the port in Hodeidah and two others nearby in early May. The pullout, one of the terms of a long delayed ceasefire for the city that was agreed in December, was carried out with UN monitors present but dismissed as a sham by the government, which did not have its own observers present. The government says the Houthis maintained control of the ports by leaving them in the charge of their own fighters disguised as local coast guard and port security forces.

The ceasefire deal also requires forces from both sides to completely withdraw from the city, but this has not yet happened. Residents reported fierce fighting in the north and east of Hodeidah on Thursday night.

“The Houthi militia shelled sites controlled by the Joint Forces near the airport using tanks and artillery while dozens of Houthi snipers were deployed on the roofs of buildings,” a resident who lives near the airport told The National.

“The clashes continued for more than two hours and they were followed by several air strikes launched by Coalition jets along the ports," the resident said.

According to a Joint Forces tally, the Houthi rebels committed 6,274 ceasefire violations since the truce was supposed to have gone into effect in December, leading to the deaths of 92 civilians and injuring 869.

Updated: June 21, 2019 04:44 PM

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