Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi group has seized a range of weapons and defense equipment bound for Saudi Arabia after hijacking UAE-flagged cargo ship M/V Rwabee late Sunday.
The ship was bound for the Saudi port of Jizan, located near the border with Yemen. The UK Maritime Trade Operations agency stated it received reports of an attack on a cargo ship approximately 23 nautical miles west of the Ras Isa Marine Terminal, in Yemen.
Footage released by Yemen's Houthis, apparently showing the Emirati ship Rwabee seized by the Iran-backed militia pic.twitter.com/nt3wFJiDpI— Iran International English (@IranIntl_En) January 3, 2022
The Saudi state news agency SPA said the ship was carrying medical equipment, but imagery shared by the Houthi movement showed the ship also laden with military vehicles, as well as an unspecified amount of small arms, including Saudi Army AK-103 rifles.
Photos of the ship’s deck that appeared online also showed rigid-hulled inflatable boats, as well as military trucks and Humvees.
A Houthi spokesperson said the group seized the ship while it was “carrying out hostile activities.” The Houthi claimed they observed the UAE ship engaging in hostile activities in Yemeni territorial waters for weeks. The spokesperson said this was the reason the ship was seized “in Yemeni territorial waters, neither Saudi nor UAE.”
The Saudi coalition fighting the Houthis called on the group to immediately surrender the ship, saying it would respond to the “piracy” with all necessary measures.
The last time the Houthis carried out a similar operation near Ras Isa was in 2019 when the Houthis briefly seized a South Korean oil drilling rig and to Saudi vessels.
The hijacking follows months of intensified conflict, as well as a bombing operation carried out by the Saudi coalition on Yemen’s capital Sanaa.
Egypt’s foreign ministry has already condemned the hijacking of the cargo ship by the Houthi militia, saying the operation “threatened international navigation,” and calling for the vessel’s immediate release.