Houthi Militants Seize Saudi Arabian Ship Sailing to Jazan With Medical Supplies

Yemen's Houthi militants have hijacked a UAE-flagged cargo ship off the port city of Hodeidah, according to reports. The incident involved the United Arab Emirates-flagged vessel called 'Rawabi', the Al Arabiya TV channel reported, citing the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-backed militant outfit based in Northern Yemen.

As per reports, the vessel was carrying medical equipment and was sailing to the port of Jazan. The medical equipment was meant to be delivered at a Saudi Arabian field hospital on Socotra Island, the report added.

The Saudi-UAE coalition has demanded the Houthis to immediately return the vessel, and that it will deal with the piracy sternly.

Yemen Saudi Arabia war map 2021
Yemen Saudi Arabia war map 2021 wikimedia commons

The capture of the vessel comes days after the coalition launched air strikes on Yemen's capital Sanaa, targeting storage facilities for drones and launch pads.

Ongoing Fighting

The Houthi rebels have launched several attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities in the recent years. In June 2019, Middle East tensions had flared up after two oil tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman. Saudi Arabia had squarely blamed rival Iran for the attacks. The incident had come a month after four other tankers were attacked off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

Footage released by the US showed what appeared to be Iranian militia approaching in a boat and removing an unexploded mine off the hull of one of the ships that were attacked. However, Iran had denied any involvement.

Earlier in March last year, a fuel tanker at an oil terminal on Saudi Arabia's Red Sea was set ablaze in an apparent attack by the Houthi rebels.

The missile from the drone hit an oil terminal in Jizan, a port on the Red Sea north of the Saudi-Yemen border. The tanker caught fire in the attack but no casualties were reported, the ministry said. Unverified videos that circulated online showed the tanker on fire.

Jeddah port
Jeddah Port - file photo Wikimedia Commons

The Saudi coalition has been at war with the Yemeni rebels since 2015, when the Houthis challenged and removed the internationally accepted regime.

The Gulf allies have been driving the Yemeni Civil War being waged by the Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi-led Yemeni government and the Houthi armed movement, which has been getting overt support from Iran.

Riyadh treats the Houthis as a proxy for Iran, which is its arch-foe. The Saudis, alongside the UAE, want to block Tehran from creating a foothold in their backyard.

Series of Attacks

In May 2019, Yemen's Houthi rebels launched drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, hitting a major oil pipeline. This was followed by the attack on four commercial ships off the coast of Fujairah.

In June that year, even as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was visiting Middle East, Japanese and Norwegian tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman.

In April last year, the Houthi militia targeted southern Saudi installations including a university in the southern city of Jizan.

Houthi Movement
Houthi Movement wikipedia

The large oil facility in Jizan in southern Saudi Arabia was hit by Yemeni Houthi forces in missile and drone attacks in July 2020 as well. The vessel had loaded about 60,000 tonnes of gasoline, and was 84-percent full.

Again in March 2021, the Yemeni rebels launched a drone attack on Saudi Aramco's oil facilities in and around Jeddah.

Killing of Qassem Soleimani

Tensions in the region in 2019, fomented by incidents like the shooting down of a US drone and the seizing of a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, had culminated in the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani in January 2020.