By AHMED AL-HAJ . AP
Yemen’s Houthi rebels targeted a ship at an oil terminal in the south of the country on Monday, the internationally recognized government said, in the latest in a series of recent attacks that threaten to escalate the conflict after months of relative calm.
The government, which controls the territory where the terminal is located, said in a statement that the strike took place while a commercial ship was in the port of Al-Dabah, near the city of Mukalla, and that it had been carried out by drones. It did not say whether any damage had been sustained or to which nation the vessel belonged.
The Houthis appeared to acknowledge the afternoon strike in a series of tweets. Houthi military spokesman Yahia Sarea said that “the armed forces succeeded in forcing an oil ship — that had come close to the Al-Dabah port in the south of the country — to leave.” He said that the ship had “refused to heed warnings.” The group takes issue with its rivals receiving funds from oil exports.
Yemen’s warring parties failed last month to renew a months-long truce that had spurred hopes for a longer peace. Later in October, the rebels targeted several other ships in drone attacks.
War has raged since 2014 in Yemen between the Houthi rebels and pro-government forces backed by a coalition of Sunni Gulf Arab states.
The Iran-backed Houthis swept down from the mountains in 2014, occupied northern Yemen and the country’s capital and forced the internationally recognized government to flee into exile to Saudi Arabia.
Since then, more than 150,000 people have been killed in the violence and 3 million have been displaced. Two-thirds of the population receives food assistance.
The initial, two-month truce agreed to on April 2 by the government and the Houthis was extended twice, until Oct. 2. Since then, both the United States and the United Nations have blamed the Houthis for a breakdown in efforts to extend the cease-fire yet again.
One of the main obstacles to a truce is the use of Yemen’s resources. The Houthis maintain that oil produced in Yemen should not be allowed to be exported by the cash-strapped government side.