Yemen’s Houthis have attacked a Saudi oil tanker in the Red Sea, causing slight damage, the Saudi-Emirati coalition fighting the rebel group in the war-torn country said.
A statement by the coalition on Wednesday said that the tanker was attacked at 21:15 GMT west of Yemen’s Hodeidah port, but did not name the vessel or describe how it was attacked.
“The Saudi oil tanker was subjected to slight damage due to the attack by the Houthi militia,” the statement read. “Thankfully the attack failed due to immediate intervention of the Coalition’s fleet.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the Houthi-run Al-Masirah TV network reported that it had targeted a warship named the Dammam off the western coast of Yemen.
On June 13, Yemeni government forces – backed by the Saudi-led military coalition – waged a wide-ranging operation to retake Hodeidah and its strategic seaport from Houthi rebels.
Government forces continued to advance towards the city, and on June 19 they seized Hodeidah international airport. But they have since been unable to make additional gains.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s main justifications for the intervention is to protect shipping routes such as the Red Sea, which is used to bring Middle Eastern oil and Asian goods to Europe through the Suez Canal. It has said that it foiled previous attacks in the Red Sea in April and May.
The coalition accuses the Houthis of smuggling in weapons through the port.
Since the start of the Hodeidah offensive, more than 121,000 people have fled Yemen’s port city due to fighting, according to a United Nations report.
Impoverished Yemen remains wracked by violence since 2014, when the Houthis overran much of the country, including the capital Sanaa.
The conflict escalated in 2015 when Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Arab allies – who accuse the Shia Houthis of serving as Iranian proxies – launched a massive air campaign in Yemen aimed at rolling back Houthi gains.