The Saudi-led military coalition fighting the Houthi group in Yemen has destroyed two explosive-laden boats in the Red Sea on Thursday, the coalition’s spokesperson said.
The two remotely controlled boats belonged to Houthi forces and were threatening navigation, according to the spokesperson’s statement carried on Saudi state news agency SPA.
The boats were destroyed 6km (3.7 miles) south of the Yemeni port of Salif.
Arabic media cited a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, Turki al-Malki, as saying the Houthis’ boats had posed an “imminent threat to sea lines of communication, international trade and regional and international security”.
“[The boats] were prepared to imminently execute hostile and terrorist actions in the Bab Al Mandab Strait and Southern Red Sea,” said al-Maliki.
Al-Maliki added the operation had not violated recently agreed ceasefire deals, and “all precautionary measures” were taken to protect civilians.
However, Yahya Sarea, a Houthi armed forces a spokesperson, said on Twitter the boats were civilian vessels and called the coalition attack a ‘major aggression’ which violated the Stockholm peace deal, a UN-brokered agreement reached in December 2018.
The latest developments come after the kingdom announced the start of a new military operation in Yemen earlier this month, with fighter jets belonging to the Saudi-led coalition launching dozens of air raids on several Yemeni provinces.
Saudi television reported at the time the coalition had begun a military push against the Houthis after the group stepped up cross-border missile and drone attacks on the kingdom.
The Houthis denounced the air raids and pledged to continue military operations inside Saudi Arabia, as Houthi-run Al Masirah Media Network reported air raids on the capital, Sanaa, as well as Marib, al-Jouf, al-Bayda, Hajjah and Saada provinces.
Last year, Saudi Arabia was targeted with dozens of attacks using ballistic missiles and drones, including a devastating assault on two facilities of oil giant Saudi Aramco that temporarily knocked out half the kingdom’s crude output.
Yemen has been locked in conflict since 2014 when the Houthis seized much of the country’s north, including Sanaa.
Fighting escalated in March 2015 when the Western-backed military coalition intervened to restore the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The long-running war has killed tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, and forced millions from their homes in what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
In June, the UN’s humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock warned that Yemen will “fall off the cliff” without significant financial support.
In April, the coalition announced a truce to enable work to halt the spread of coronavirus. Saudi Arabia has accused the Houthi group of breaking the ceasefire thousands of times since it was implemented.