Iran-backed Houthis reject UN request to release seized UAE-flagged vessel

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Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis on Saturday rejected a United Nations request to release a UAE-flagged vessel they seized earlier this month.

“The Rwabee vessel was not carrying... toys for children but weapons for extremists,” a Houthi official, Hussein al-Azzi said.

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The Iran-backed Houthis seized the ship on January 3 off the Red Sea port of Hodeida, along with its 11-member crew, and then released a video which they said shows military equipment on board.

The United Arab Emirates described the ‘Rwabee’ as a “civilian cargo vessel.”

It said the ship was leased by a Saudi company and that it had been in international waters carrying equipment to be used at a field hospital.

The Arab Coalition intervened in Yemen to support the internationally recognized government in March 2015 after the Iran-backed Houthis captured the capital, Sanaa, the previous year.

On Friday the UN Security Council demanded the “immediate release” of the ‘Rwabee’ and its crew.

It stressed “the importance of freedom of navigation in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea,” a strategic route for international shipping.

It also called on “all parties to de-escalate the situation in Yemen,” including by working with the UN’s special envoy to return to the negotiating table.

The UAE is part of the Arab coalition which has described the seizing of the vessel as an act of “piracy.”

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