The Houthis have captured 19 oil tankers off the Yemeni coast, near the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Saudi ambassador to Yemen Mohammed Al Jaber said on April 21 according to the Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat.
The tankers are allegedly carrying 200,000 tons of oil. The Saudi diplomat claimed that the Houthis had imposed “royalties up to $1 million for each ship allowed docking in the port.”
However, it’s important to note that all the reports about the detained oil tankers are surfacing from Saudi sources.
Minister of Local Administration and Higher Relief Committee chairman in the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, Abdul Raqeeb Fatah, also accused the Houthis of seizing “vessels loaded with relief and humanitarian aid” in the port of Hodeidah.
“Militias have detained over 65 relief vessels, and militarized the Hodeidah port—use it to seize relief and commercial vessels, and threaten international navigation in the Red Sea,” the Saba news agency quoted Fatah as saying.
In 2017, the Saudi-led coalition failed to capture Hodeidah, one of the largest ports in the war-torn country, from the Houthis. The Saudi-led coalition has repeatedly accused the Houthis of using the port for weapons traffiking and sezing the supplies and aid heading through the port.
On September 14, 2017 weapons traffiking threatened that the movement will attack Saudi oil tankers and vessels should the Saudi-led coalition attack the prot of Hodeidah.
“We could target Saudi oil tankers and we could do anything,” he said adding that the Houthis’ missiles are capable of reaching the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi and any target in Saudi Arabia.
Since then, the Houthis have increased their ballistic missile attacks on Saudi targets in the Yemeni-Saudi border area and inside Saudi Arabia itself. Saudi Arabia is fiercely censoring media reports on the results of the Houthis’ missile attacks. However, according to local sources, the Saudi military’s air defense forces face significant issues with intercepting these missiles.
For example, on April 23, Saudi news agency SPA said that Saudi forces had intercepted two missiles launched by the Houthisat a Saudi Aramco facility in the southern city of Jizan. In turn, the Yemeni Al-Masirah TV said they had targeted a port belonging to the Saudi oil giant.
Yemen’s Defense Ministry vowed a “crushing response” to the assassination of a senior official from the Houthi Ansarullah movement, Yemeni Saba news agency reported on April 23.
On April 19, a Saudi airstrike killed Saleh al-Samad, the head of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, in Hodeidah. Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi said in a televised statement that Samad’s death would have “severe consequences”.
“The forces of aggression, led by America and Saudi Arabia, bear the legal responsibility for this crime and all its consequences,” Reuters quoted the Houthis’ leader as saying.
The death of Samad, who headed the group’s highest political body in areas under their control, is a notable blow to the Houthis in the three-year-old war that killed more than 10,000 people and pushed millions to the humanitarian crisis.
On April 24, the news portal Middle East Eye reported that the Houthi Council of National Defense had announced a state of alert following Samad’s death and threatened to retaliate.
Most likely, the Houthis will respond with new ballistic missiles attacks on Saudi Arabia.