The closure of Yemeni ports by the Saudi-led coalition is heating up tensions in the region as Houthi movement threatens to target commercial ships in the region as a sign of retaliation.
“The battleships and oil tankers of the aggression and their movements will not be safe from the fire of Yemeni naval forces if they are directed by the senior leadership (to attack),” the Houthis’ official media outlet Al Masirah is quoted as saying on its website by Reuters, citing a military commander.
However, according to Mohammed Alli Al-Houthi, international navigation will be safe if the ports are reopened, however, should the blockade continue “ the people would not stand idly by“, as written on his Facebook page.
He also added that only those “who attack our country” are likely to be targeted, meaning Saudi Arabian oil installations or oil tankers, as hinted by Reuters.
Last week, Saudi Arabia-led coalition decided to temporarily close all sea, air and land ports in the country, after a rebel-fired ballistic missile, which targeted Riyadh, was intercepted on November 4 by Saudi Arabian military forces.
Specifically, the closure applies to ports under the control of Houthi rebels, namely the Red Sea ports of Hodeidah and Saleef.
The Port of Aden has been excluded from the temporary closure since the port falls under the direct management of the Yemeni government and direct control of the Saudi-led coalition.
The United Nations has warned that Yemen will be gripped by famine, “one the likes of which the world has not seen in years” if the blockade on basic supplies into the country imposed by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition is not lifted immediately.
“It will be the largest famine the world has seen for many decades,” Mark Lowcock, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, said.
As informed by the UN, three years into a brutal conflict, Yemen depends on imports – amounting to up to 90 percent of its daily needs – and millions in the country are being kept alive by humanitarian aid.
The fighting has also all but collapsed the country’s health, and water and sanitation systems.
“Combined with the lack of food, millions of lives – including those of children – will be lost as their bodies will simply not have the strength to fight off disease,” the UN said.
Furthermore, all vessels that have passed inspection by the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism should not be subjected to interference, delays to or blockages so that they can proceed to port as rapidly as possible, he added.
“This is really important because humanitarian access through the ports was inadequate even before the measures that were announced on 6 November,” said the senior UN official.
He also called for an immediate agreement to the prepositioning of the World Food Programme (WFP) vessel in the waters off Aden, assurances that there will be no further disruption to the functions the vessel supports, as well as resumption of humanitarian and commercial access to all the seaports of Yemen.
The three-year conflict has claimed the lives of well over 5,000 civilians, based on UN’s data.
World Maritime News Staff