Yemen’s Houthis say they attacked Maersk Sentosa ship in Arabian Sea

AL-MUKALLA: A merchant ship off Yemen’s eastern coast was attacked by the Houthis on Tuesday, according to a British maritime agency that tracks attacks on ships. It ended more than a week without reported militia attacks on ships in international shipping lanes.

United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said the captain of the merchant vessel reported the incident 180 nautical miles east of Nishtun, a city in Al-Mahra Governorate in eastern Yemen.

“The captain of a merchant ship reports an explosion near the ship. The ship and all crew are safe. The ship is sailing to its next port of call,” the organization said.

The last confirmed Houthi attack in Yemeni waters was on June 28 near the western province of Hodeida. Since launching a campaign targeting international shipping in November, the Houthi have attacked shipping in the Red Sea and other waters, using hundreds of ballistic missiles, drones and explosive-laden drone boats. They escalated their attacks in June, with near-daily attacks on merchant and naval vessels in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.

The militia claims to be working on behalf of the Palestinian people to force Israeli authorities to cease military operations in Gaza. However, critics say the Houthis are using outrage in Yemen over Israel’s actions in Gaza as justification for resuming the war in Yemen and as a pretext to attack ships in order to increase public support, recruit more fighters and distract from their failure to address crumbling public services and pay public sector workers.

In recent statements, Houthi spokesman Yahya Sarea said the group was working with Iraqi militias to organize coordinated operations against Israeli targets and vessels in international waters that had not been approved by maritime agencies. On Monday, he said the militia and the Islamic Resistance Movement in Iraq were responsible for a drone attack on an “important site” in the Israeli port city of Eilat.

Meanwhile, the Houthis canceled a Yemenia Airways flight from Sanaa to Amman on Monday, angering passengers who had booked tickets. The Houthis justified the decision by blaming the “aggression” of authorities who refused to agree to the militia’s demands for the airline to schedule flights from Sanaa to other destinations, including Cairo and India.

The Houthis recently seized control of four Yemenia planes at Sanaa airport and prevented them from flying to Saudi Arabia to take hundreds of Yemeni pilgrims home. A Yemeni government official told Arab News on Tuesday that the militia is trying to pressure the government to add flights to new destinations in exchange for the release of the seized planes.

The Houthis also oppose the Yemeni government’s plans to relocate the Civil Aviation and Meteorology Authority from Sanaa to Aden, which would deprive the militia of a key source of income and the ability to regulate flight operations.

“Now they want to enforce a fait accompli by setting new destinations and halting all actions aimed at moving the weather navigation center from Sanaa to Aden,” said the official, who asked not to be identified.

The latest draft of the UN-brokered peace deal includes a commitment by the Yemeni government to allow the opening of additional routes into Yemen from Sanaa in exchange for the Houthi agreement to lift the siege of Ta’iz.

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