The Saudi-led military coalition said it has destroyed four boat assembly sites near the Yemeni port city of Hodeida after intercepting and destroying an unmanned boat laden with explosives in the Red Sea.
Saudi state media said that the Saudi-led military coalition launched the operation against “remote controlled” boats early Friday near Hodeida.
The coalition said the operation destroyed four sites used to assemble the unmanned boats and sea mines to “help protect freedom of maritime navigation,” Reuters news agency reported.
The operation comes after state media reported Thursday that the Saudi coalition thwarted a “terrorist act” by intercepting an unmanned boat fitted with explosives in the Red Sea, which it said had been launched from Yemen by Houthi rebels.
“The coalition’s naval forces detected an attempt by the terrorist Houthi militia backed by Iran to carry out an imminent act of aggression and terrorism south of the Red Sea using an unmanned, rigged boat … launched from Hodeida province,” coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki said in a statement.
Vessels have been targeted in the past off the Yemeni coast in the Red Sea, which is a vital oil tanker route. In July 2018, two Saudi tankers were attacked by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea.
Malki said that that Hodeida is used by rebels to “launch ballistic missiles, drones, booby-trapped and remote-controlled boats, as well as for indiscriminate deployment of sea mines.”
The coalition said it had called on civilians to stay away from the area and said the operation was carried out in accordance with humanitarian law.
Tension with Iran
The operations come astensions are simmering in the region after the Iran-backed Houthis claimed responsibility for last weekend’s twin attacks on oil facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia.
However, both the US and Saudi Arabia have said the attacks were orchestrated by Saudi Arabia’s archrival, Iran.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that the US wants a peaceful solution to the crisis sparked by the attacks. Tehran said any military action against Iran by the US or Saudi Arabia in retaliation would result in an “all-out war.”
On Thursday, the US military said it is working with Saudi Arabia to find ways to provide more protection for the northern part of the country after the drone and cruise missile attack on the Saudi oil industry.
Since 2015, the Saudi-led coalition, backed by Western powers including the US,has been battling Houthi rebels in support of the Yemeni government after it was ousted by the rebels in late 2014.
The conflict has unleashed a humanitarian crisis, with tens of thousands of people having been killed, most of them civilians.
wmr/kl (Reuters, AFP, AP)