DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (AP) – Yemen’s Houthi rebels seized an Emirati-flagged ship in the Red Sea, officials said yesterday, the latest sign of Mideast tensions as hackers targetted a major Israeli newspaper’s website to mark America’s 2020 killing of a top Iranian general.
The seizure of the Rwabee marks the latest assault in the Red Sea, a crucial route for international trade and energy shipments. The Houthis acknowledged the incident off the coast of Hodeida, a long-contested prize of the grinding war in Yemen.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the hacking of the Jerusalem Post. The hackers replaced the Post’s homepage with an image depicting a missile coming down from a fist bearing a ring long associated with Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian general killed by a United States (US) drone strike in Iraq two years ago.
First word of the Rwabee’s seizure came from the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which only said an attack targetted an unnamed vessel around midnight.
The coordinates it offered corresponded to the Emirati-flagged landing craft Rwabee, which hadn’t given its location via satellite-tracking data for hours, according to the website MarineTraffic.com.
A statement from the Saudi-led coalition, carried by state media in the kingdom, acknowledged the attack hours later, saying the Houthis had committed an act of “armed piracy” involving the vessel. The coalition asserted the ship carried medical equipment from a dismantled Saudi field hospital in the distant island of Socotra, without offering evidence.
“The Houthi militia must immediately release the ship, otherwise the coalition forces shall take all necessary measures and procedures to deal with this violation, including the use of force,” Brigadier General Turki al-Malki said in a statement.
A Houthi military spokesman, Yahia Sarei, announced that rebel forces had seized what he described as an Emirati “military cargo ship” carrying equipment into Yemen’s territorial waters “without any licence” to engage in “hostile acts” against Yemen’s stability. He said the rebels would offer more details on the seizure later.