Arab coalition thwarts Houthi attack in Red Sea

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

Yemeni coast guards look on at Saleef port on the Red Sea in al-Hodeidah province following the withdrawal of the Houthis on May 13th, 2019. [AFP]

Yemeni coast guards look on at Saleef port on the Red Sea in al-Hodeidah province following the withdrawal of the Houthis on May 13th, 2019. [AFP]

Arab coalition naval forces on Sunday (February 23rd) thwarted an attack attempted by the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah), destroying a remote-controlled explosives-laden boat in the southern Red Sea.

"The drone boat, which threatened regional and international security, maritime navigation routes and international trade, was destroyed," coalition spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki confirmed.

"Three naval mines also have been discovered and destroyed in the past 24 hours in Bab el-Mandeb strait and the southern Red Sea," he said.

This brings to 150 the number of Houthi-planted naval mines that have been discovered and destroyed to date, he noted.

"The Houthis are using al-Hodeidah as a place for launching ballistic missiles, drones and drone boats, and also for randomly deploying naval mines," he said, in what amounts to a "stark violation of international humanitarian law".

Coalition targets arms depots

The Arab coalition on Thursday announced it had intercepted several missiles fired by the Houthis from Yemen towards Saudi cities.

Riyadh said it had intercepted ballistic missiles fired by the Houthis in a "systematic, deliberate manner to target cities and civilians", in what it branded a breach of international law.

On Sunday, the coalition launched air raids targeting ballistic missile and drone depots in Sanaa, AFP reported.

Al-Maliki said the strikes were in retaliation for ballistic missiles attacks on "civilian targets" in Saudi Arabia.

The Arab coalition "carried out a unique military operation to destroy legitimate military targets for the capabilities of assembling and firing of Iranian ballistic missiles and drones" in Sanaa, he said, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

Al-Maliki said Sanaa had become "a Houthi militia assembly, installation and launching hub for ballistic missiles that target the kingdom".

The air raid destroyed storage, assembly and firing sites in the districts of Faj Atan, al-Amad Camp and al-Nahdain mountain, he said.

Houthis escalation serves Iran

"The Houthis' escalation in the Red Sea, which represents a vital oil route, and their attempts to target Saudi soil threaten the region's security and stability for the service of Iran," political analyst Faisal Ahmed told Al-Mashareq.

"Iran wants to prove to the world that it still possesses strong elements of power in the region through its Houthi proxies at a time when its other proxies across the region are suffering," he said.

"To Iran, its allies and tools in Yemen represent a frontline in its confrontation with regional countries following the death of [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander] Qassem Soleimani," he added.

Through its aggression in the Red Sea, Iran is attempting to bring an end to the economic sanctions imposed on it, he said, "as if it is saying that the stronger the economic siege on it, the more it will carry out military strikes".

The Islamic Republic seeks to ease sanctions on itself by causing economic losses to other parties that will make them reconsider, he explained.

Meanwhile, Ahmed called on the Arab coalition to retake control of al-Hodeidah, noting that it serves as a conduit between Iran and the Houthis for the transfer of weapons, missile components and drones.

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