The Houthis from Yemen recently seized a vessel that was pulling cargo from Asia in the Red Sea on Sunday. The Saudi-led coalition announced the recent capture on Monday which further escalated the tensions in the Middle East.
The recent move by the Yemen-based rebels is seen as a continuation of the drone attacks and other ship captures.
The Houthis hijacked the tugboat Rabigh-3 that was towing an oil drilling rig from South Korea. Saudi Press Agency spokesperson Colonel Turki al-Malki announced the news to the public yesterday.
The spokesman also said that the hijacking threatens the security in the Red Sea, especially in the Bab al-Mandeb strait shipping route.
The strait aids ships to carry goods from the Persian Gulf to any of the European countries. It is also the route for ships that brings goods from Asia to Europe.
The spokesperson did not mention which country the ship came from. The Houthis are subjected to armed robbery.
According to oil ship trackers, the Rabigh-3’s base port is in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Trackers also say that the ship sails under the flag of the kingdom.
The Houthi movement is locally known as Ansar Allah which translates to “Supporter of God.” The Islamic political movement started from Sa’dah, Yemen in the 1990s.
In the past, the Houthis have targeted oil tankers and military ships originating from Saudi Arabia. Prior to the attack, the rebel group also claimed the drone attack on Saudi Aramco.
The last strike on the oil giant temporarily took out over 5% of the world’s oil and petroleum supply. The two facilities attacked were the large Khurais oil field and the Abqaiq oil processing plant.
The United States has previously accused Iran of the drone attack.
Aside from Saudi Arabia, the Houthis are also targeting Riyadh’s partners in the military collation in Yemen’s war.
Yemen’s South Korean ambassador condemned the capture in a recent meeting. Yemeni Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdullah al-Hadrami also called for the release of the ship.
A maritime security expert said that the recent capture shows off the capabilities of the rebel group to perform maritime attacks. He then added that countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, can’t protect their vessels 24/7.
Attempting to End the Conflict
Just last week, the Houthis and officials from Saudi Arabia were reportedly having “indirect talks” in Oman. The two groups’ behind-the-scenes conversation was to try and end the five-year war in Yemen.
The Gulf Arab country, Oman, borders both Yemen and Saudi Arabia and is acting as the mediator of the two.
The two parties had video conference conversations over the two previous months. The calls started in September, right after the group claimed responsibility for the Saudi Aramco attack.
The two sides have also talked through European intermediaries in the past according to the rebel group’s officials.
The current talks were said to be about the interim goals of both sides. Such as reestablishing Yemen’s airport in Sanaa, which was closed by Riyadh’s coalition three years ago.
A buffer zone is also in the talks, along with a border in areas controlled by the Houthis. Aside from those, Riyadh is also working on assuring that the rebels will stay away from Shia power, Iran.