DUBAI, Jan 10, (Agencies): Yemen’s rebels have threatened to block traffic across the Red Sea unless a blockade by a regional military alliance is lifted, prompting fresh accusations Tuesday of “terrorism” by their rivals. UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash, whose country is a key member in a Saudi-led camp battling the Houthi rebels, tweeted that the rebels’ “open threat to international navigation in the Red Sea is documentation of their terrorist nature”.
Houthi political chief Saleh al-Samad had warned Monday that the rebels could “turn to strategic options … including cutting off the Red Sea and international navigation” unless a port and airport blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia and its allies were lifted. He did not elaborate. “They pass through our waters in their ships while our people are dying of hunger,” Samad said in a statement published by the Houthis’ Al-Masirah TV. “But if they are ready to restart negotiations, we are ready as well.” Samad made the comments during a meeting with the deputy UN envoy to Yemen Muin Shreim. Along with the Yemeni capital and much of the northern highlands, the rebels continue to control a string of ports along Yemen’s Red Sea coastline despite the coalition’s superior firepower.
The Saudi-led coalition joined the Yemeni government in its fight against the Houthis in March 2015, after the rebels seized control of the capital Sanaa. The coalition has warships positioned in the Red Sea. In early November, the coalition tightened a pre-existing blockade on Yemeni ports and airports in response to a missile fired by the Shiite Houthis intercepted near Riyadh airport.
The blockade has massively reduced the amount of food and relief reaching the country, international aid organisations say. The blockade has been partially lifted under massive international pressure, namely over the closure of Hodeida port — key to humanitarian and commercial deliveries. More than 9,000 people have been killed since the coalition’s intervention in Yemen, according to the World Health Organization.
The country is also now facing what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Family members and a detainee say Yemeni security forces this week opened fire on detainees in the southern port city of Aden, wounding 12. According to the detainee and two family members visiting their jailed kin, the incident took place on Sunday in the Beir Ahmed 2 detention center. The facility is part of an anti-terror campaign led by the United Arab Emirates, which set up a network of secret prisons to hold hundreds of terror detainees.
The detainee, one of the 12 wounded, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the soldiers opened fire to halt a protest by the detainees against restrictions on closer contact with visitors. Both the detainee and the relatives spoke on condition of anonymity because they fear retribution from prison authorities. Meanwhile, Yemen’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Abdullah Al-Mikhlafimet on Tuesday with Russian, Chinese and British ambassadors to Yemen Vladimir Dedushki, Tian Chi and Simon Shercliff, respectively. The discussions during the three separate meetings dealt with the bilateral ties and issues of common concern, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
The Yemeni minister reviewed the latest developments of the situation in his country, particularly the capital city of Sanaa, and threats posed by the Houthi militia to the regional and international security. He reiterated the Yemeni government’s commitment to the peace process and support to the efforts of UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmad. He pointed out that the Houthis prove every day that they are not ready for peace, citing their recent threats to the navigation in the Red Sea. For their part, the Russian, Chinese and British ambassadors renewed their countries’ support to the legitimate government of Yemen in its efforts to restore peace and stability to the country.