Middle East

Houthis announce temporary halt to shipping lane attacks

The Houthis have previously threatened to block the strait of Bab al-Mandeb several times (AFP)

Yemens Houthi Supreme Revolutionary Committee issued a temporary halt to all marine military activity, according to a Tuesday statement sent by the armed group.

“The unilateral halt in naval military operations will be for a limited time period and could be extended and include all fronts if this move is reciprocated by the leadership of the coalition,” the head of the committee, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, said in the statement.

The statement – mentioned on Twitter by Houthis' leader Mohammed Ali al-Houthi and by the Houthi defence ministry – said that the ceasefire will begin on 1 August and will last until 15 August.

Last week, Saudi Arabia alleged that the Houthis attacked two oil tankers near the Bab al-Mandeb strait, where the Red Sea meets the Gulf of Aden in the Arabian Sea.

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Saudi Arabia suspends oil exports through Red Sea lane after Houthi attack

In a statement released by Saudis energy ministry on Thursday, Minister Khalid al-Falih said that the Houthis had attacked two Saudi very large crude carriers (VLCCs) in the Red Sea on Wednesday morning, one of which sustained minimal damage.

Saudi Arabia has said it is "temporarily halting" all oil shipments through the strategic Red Sea shipping lane of Bab al-Mandeb after an attack on two big oil tankers by Yemen's Houthi movement.

The Houthis' Al Masirah TV had said on Twitter that they had targeted a warship named the Dammam off the western coast of Yemen in what the group later said was a missile attack.

In a separate statement carried on the Houthi-run SABA news agency, the group said it had also targeted a coalition frigate off the coast of al-Durayhmi in southern Hodeidah.

The Houthis, who have also launched missile attacks on Saudi cities, including the capital Riyadh, have previously threatened to block the strait of Bab al-Mandeb several times to force the coalition to stop its air strikes.

An estimated 4.8 million barrels per day of crude oil and refined petroleum products flowed through the Bab al-Mandeb strait in 2016 towards Europe, the United States and Asia, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Saudis energy ministry said that a Saudi shipping company operated both tankers.

The Western-backed coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched an offensive in June to wrest Yemen's main port of Hodeidah from the Houthis, in a bid to cut off the primary supply line of the movement, which holds the most populated areas of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa.

Earlier this month, the alliance called a halt to the offensive in order to give UN efforts to reach a political solution a chance. Such a solution would avert an assault on the port, which is a lifeline for millions of Yemenis.

One of the coalition's main justifications for intervening in Yemen's war in 2015 was to protect shipping routes such as the Red Sea. It has said it foiled previous attacks there in April and May.

The coalition said in a statement carried by Saudi state media in the previous week that the Houthis had attacked one oil tanker west of Hodeidah.

"Thankfully the attack failed due to immediate intervention of the coalition's fleet," it said without providing details.

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