By Arab News
A Saudi oil tanker was attacked by Houthi militia off the coast of Yemen on Tuesday, raising concern over the threat to shipping in one of the world’s busiest maritime routes.
The afternoon attack took place in international waters west of Hodeidah port, which is controlled by the Iran-backed Houthis, Col. Turki Al-Malki, spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, said.
A coalition warship conducted a “swift intervention” foiling the attack, a statement said.
The tanker suffered minor damage and continued its course under escort.
“The attack is a serious threat to the freedom of maritime navigation and international trade in the Red Sea and Bab Al-Mandab Strait,” Al-Malki said
Houthi control of sections of the Red Sea coast has been a concern for international shipping since the militants seized the capital Sanaa and territory across the country’s north.
An EU naval force that operates in the region confirmed the ship was underway, adding that the crew were safe and unharmed, Reuters reported.
The Houthis have carried out several attacks on coalition ships, including in Jan. 2017 when two crew members of a Saudi frigate were killed. The militants have also targeted US warships.
The attack came after Saudi air defenses last week intercepted a flurry of ballistic missiles fired by the Houthis, which drew international condemnation.
Saudi Arabia, Arab countries and the US say the missiles and other weaponry come from Iran and are smuggled into Yemen.
The Saudi coalition is supporting the internationally recognized government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi against the Houthis.
In Geneva on Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the sides in Yemen to reach a political settlement.
Speaking at a fund-raising conference for Yemen, Guterres said his Special Envoy Martin Griffiths will head to the UAE, Oman and the Yemeni government-held city of Aden in the drive for peace, Reuters reported.
Guterres said he saw “positive perspectives” for preparing a plan of action “to lead to an effective inter-Yemeni dialogue able to achieve a political solution, with of course the involvement of all those that are relevant in this conflict”.
He announced that more than $2 billion has been pledged toward a UN humanitarian appeal of $3 billion for Yemen this year. It includes $930 million from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdel-Malek Al-Mekhlafi called for a return to the negotiating table to end the war.
On Monday, King Salman stressed in a phone call with Donald Trump the Kingdom’s efforts to find a political solution to the Yemen crisis and provide humanitarian relief and support to its people, Saudi Press Agency reported.
They also discussed Iran’s attempts to destabilize the region.