Sana’a (GPA) – On Monday, Yemen’s Coast Guard announced the seizure of three vessels that had violated Yemeni territorial waters and subsequently ignored patrol calls. Everyone aboard the vessels is safe and awaiting Yemeni officials to confirm the origin of the ships. However, this hasn’t stopped the Saudi military spokesman from calling the act a “terrorist operation.”

Yemen seizes three vessels in its Red Sea territorial waters

Yemen’s Coast Guard released a statement yesterday detailing the seizure. According to the statement, three vessels entered Yemeni territorial waters on Sunday without prior notice. Yemen’s navy was forced to apprehend the ships after they ignored the Coast Guard’s patrol calls via standard channels — a violation of international maritime law.

The incident took place about three miles from the Yemeni island of Uqban where the detained ships were escorted to Salif Port along Yemen’s west coast — just north of Hodeidah — for inspection and to contact concerned parties.

Yemeni sources have confirmed that at least one of the ships, Rabegh 3, belongs to Saudi oil company PetroRabigh. According to South Korean sources, the vessels include a Saudi tugboat traveling with a South Korean tugboat and oil drilling rig.

28 crew members were reportedly aboard the ships including 16 South Koreans, but this is not yet confirmed. Speaking to Reuters, a senior official in Yemen’s Sana’a government, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, said that Yemeni forces were treating the crew members with respect and would release any ships belonging to South Korea after confirmation of their origin and standard protocols.

“Yemeni coast guards … are checking to see whether [the vessel] belongs to the countries of aggression or to South Korea, in which case it will be released after completing legal procedures,” he said.

In its statement, Yemen’s Coast Guard affirmed its commitment to the respect of Yemen’s sovereignty, reiterating that Yemeni forces will spare no effort to protect the safety of its territorial waters.

This incident comes two months after Yemeni forces struck a Saudi Aramco facility in retaliation for the ongoing airstrike campaign, ground invasion, and unlawful land-sea-air blockade that has killed or injured several hundred thousand civilians through violence, starvation, and disease. However, the recent Red Sea incident wasn’t a planned military operation but rather a defensive response to a clear violation of Yemen’s territorial sovereignty.

Yemen’s Sana’a government, known only throughout mainstream media as “the Houthis,” has expanded Yemen’s military and naval capabilities since the war began. In the fall of 2017, Sana’a revealed new domestically produced marine missiles and updated Coast Guard training.

yemen naval defense

Saudis, who have killed over 100k Yemeni civilians, call the seizure a “terrorist operation”

Riyadh’s military spokesman, Col. Turk al-Maliki, called the incident a “terrorist operation.” Ironically, Maliki’s military has, for nearly the past five years, carried out daily terror attacks against Yemeni civilians.

Saudi airstrikes routinely target civilian gatherings as well as vital infrastructure. Air raids on weddings, funerals, crowded weekend markets, refugee camps, and homes of large families are common. Riyadh also orders airstrikes on factories, agricultural farms, water treatment facilities, schools, mosques, food trucks, hospitals, electrical power stations, and every other vital piece of Yemeni society imaginable.

The illegal land, sea, and air blockade functions to create famine and disease which the Saudi-led coalition weaponizes against the Yemeni people.

In September, Yemeni government sources announced that the Saudi coalition had detained a total of 13 ships filled with food, medicine, and fuel destined for Yemen. Inspectors from Saudi Arabia and the United Nations had both verified that the ships were in fact filled with aid and did not contain missile parts or weapons. Despite this, the Saudis prohibited the vessels from docking in Hodeidah Port to distribute aid. The incident follows Riyadh’s strategy of interfering with the distribution of aid and manufacturing a humanitarian disaster.

Yemeni sources confirmed today that the coalition is still seizing six of these 13 ships.

Yemen’s Ministry of Health spokesman, Dr. Yosuf al-Haidari, told Geopolitics Alert last month that the shortage of fuel had suffocated the healthcare sector and put millions of Yemenis with chronic diseases at risk of dying.

Last week, Dr. Haidari told Geopolitics Alert that the blockade on medicine combined with seasonal rain and heat had caused the situation in Hodeidah to deteriorate even further with mosquito-borne illnesses skyrocketing. Dr. Haidari said that over 1 million civilians have contracted malaria, another 36 thousand have contracted dengue fever, and H1N1 diagnoses have surged.

The Ministry of Health isn’t ruling out the possibility this epidemic is an intentional biological warfare tactic, citing the barbaric nature of the US-backed Saudi-led coalition which has turned Yemen into an open-air prison for military experiments.

The United States has participated in the Saudi-led war against Yemen since its inception in March of 2015. Washington provides the bulk of military support, weapons, training, and even intelligence support for selecting airstrike targets.

Over 100 thousand people have been killed or injured from airstrikes and ground operations while several hundred thousand more have died as a result of the blockade and lack of access to food or medical care. According to the United Nations, 22 million out of 29 million Yemenis require urgent humanitarian aid and a child under 5 dies every ten minutes.