By Arab News
Saudi Arabia has urged the UN’s Security Council to condemn Tuesday’s attack by Iran-backed Houthis on a Saudi Arabian oil tanker in international waters west of Yemen’s Hodeidah port.
Riyadh also called on the council to hold the Houthis and Tehran accountable for violating international law.
In a letter, the Kingdom called for all possible measures to be taken to ensure the speedy and comprehensive implementation of UN Resolutions 2216 and 2231 to prevent the escalation of Houthi attacks.
The Kingdom “condemns in the strongest terms this cowardly terrorist attack on the Saudi oil tanker, expressing its deep concern at the threats being posed by the Houthis’ relentless terrorist attacks on freedom of maritime and international trade in Bab El-Mandeb and the Red Sea region,” the letter said.
“By launching this failed terrorist attack on the oil tanker (the Houthis) have also shown their indifference to the potential catastrophic environmental and economic consequences of an oil spill in the Bab El-Mandeb and Red Sea areas.”
The UN is beefing up its inspections of ships bringing humanitarian aid to Yemen to ensure that no military equipment is being smuggled through and to speed delivery of desperately needed relief supplies, UN and Saudi officials said.
The move comes as the Houthi movement steps up attacks on the Kingdom.
A Saudi-led coalition said that Riyadh’s air defense had intercepted a missile on Wednesday night, which the Houthis said was aimed at storage tanks belonging to Saudi Aramco oil company.
Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of supplying missiles to the Houthis.
Under an arms embargo imposed by the UNSC, monitors from the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM) are based in ports in Djibouti, Dubai, Jeddah and Salalah to observe screening of cargo destined for Yemen.
“We met the UNVIM director and his team in Riyadh and we agreed on improved and enhanced capability,” Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed S. Al-Jabir told reporters in Geneva.
He said UNVIM would increase its inspectors to 10 from four and its monitors to 16 from six, and would also improve technology for inspecting ships.
“We are cooperating with the UNVIM and other UN organizations to facilitate and to increase the amount of ships that arrive to Hodeidah port,” Jabir said, referring to Yemen’s main port for humanitarian and commercial goods, under Houthi control.
Imams in crosshairs
A spate of deadly drive-by shootings targeting imams and preachers has sparked panic in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden, prompting some imams to quit, abandoning their mosques, while dozens have fled the country.
The killings have also brought attention to a rivalry that has emerged in Aden in yet another layer to Yemen’s complex civil war.
Many of the slain clerics belonged to the Islah party. In most cases, they were shot by gunmen while leaving their mosques after Friday prayers, or outside their homes.
At least 25 clerics, preachers and religious scholars have been gunned down since 2016 in Aden and the southern provinces, with over 15 killed in the past six months alone, according to a tally by the Associated Press news agency.
Minister of Religious Endowment Ahmed Attiya said that the killings are “systematic” and that more than 50 clerics have left Yemen so far, fleeing to countries such as Egypt and Jordan.
“If this continues, we will ask the clerics to stay home and stop going to mosques,” he said from Riyadh.
Attiya has also appealed for an effort to “rescue the clerics, scholars, and imams” of Aden. His office has warned that the killings are taking place alongside forced replacements of clerics who are affiliated with Islah.
The government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has denounced the slayings as “desperate attempts by terrorist elements and outlaws” against Yemen’s legitimate government.
No group has claimed responsibility for the killings. Security authorities in Aden would only say that they are investigating and that they have rounded up some suspects.