Yemeni rebels reject UN request to release UAE vessel, say ship was carrying “military assets”

Jan 16, 2022: Yemeni Houthi rebels have rejected a UN request to release an Emirati-flagged ship seized earlier this month with its 11-member crew, saying it was carrying “military assets”.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has described Rwabee as a “civilian cargo ship” leased by a Saudi company and was in international waters carrying equipment used in a field hospital.

Meanwhile Hussain al-Azzi, Houthi official said the ship was not carrying toys as asserted but was in fact carrying weapons.

In the latest development, UN Security Council on Friday demanded the “immediate release” of the Rwabee and its crew and stressed “the importance of freedom of navigation in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea”, a strategic route for international shipping.

The Security Council demanded “the immediate release of the vessel and its crew” and underscored “the necessity of ensuring the crew’s safety and well-being”. It also called on “all parties to de-escalate the situation in Yemen”, including by working with the UN’s special envoy to return to negotiating table.

To which Al-Azzi responded by accusing the UN of siding with “murderers who violate international laws”.

According to Al-Azzi, the Rwabee “belongs to a country participating in the aggression against our people and at war with Yemen, and entered (Yemeni) territorial waters unlawfully.”

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels seized Rawabi near the Red Sea port of Hodeidah on January 3, and then released a video that allegedly showed military equipment on board, including military-style inflatable rafts, trucks. Along with other vehicles, which are apparently carrying rifles.

On the other hand, a statement from the Saudi-led coalition accused the Houthis of committing “armed piracy” and said the ship was carrying medical supplies from a destroyed Saudi field hospital on the remote Yemeni island of Socotra. Saudi state television has accused the Houthis of transferring weapons on board.

The UAE is part of the Saudi-led coalition, although it withdrew its troops in 2019. In a letter to the United Nations, Abu Dhabi noted that Raoubi’s staff consisted of 11 members, including seven Indians and others from Ethiopia, Indonesia, Myanmar and others.

Yemen has been embroiled in a civil war since 2014 when Houthi rebels seized the capital, Sanaa, and much of the northern part of the country, forcing the government to flee south, followed by Saudi Arabia.

The United Nations says it will need about ً$3.9 billion this year to help some 16 million people in the war-torn country.

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