Iran warns U.S. against hindering Yemen aid ship

Boys carry relief supplies to their families who fled fighting in the southern city of Aden, during a food distribution effort by Yemeni volunteers, in Taiz, Yemen, Saturday, May 9, 2015. (Reuters)

A senior Iranian military official has warned the U.S. and the Saudi-led coalition targeting Yemeni militias that blocking an Iranian aid ship bound for Yemen will "spark a fire," as a five-day humanitarian cease-fire appeared to hold early Wednesday after going into effect the day before.

"I bluntly declare that the self-restraint of Islamic Republic of Iran is not limitless," Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, the deputy chief of staff, told Iran's Arabic-language Al-Alam state TV late Tuesday.

"Both Saudi Arabia and its novice rulers, as well as the Americans and others, should be mindful that if they cause trouble for the Islamic Republic with regard to sending humanitarian aid to regional countries, it will spark a fire, the putting out of which would definitely be out of their hands."

Iran says the ship, which departed Monday, is carrying food, medicine, tents and blankets, as well as reporters, rescue workers and peace activists. It says the ship is expected to arrive at Yemen's port city of Hodeida next week. Iran's navy said Tuesday it will protect the ship.

Saudi Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri, a military spokesman, said Tuesday that no ship would be permitted to reach Yemen unless there was prior coordination with the coalition, and that if Iran wants to deliver humanitarian aid it should do so through the United Nations.

In Washington, U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren said the American military is monitoring the cargo ship and warned that it would not be helpful if Iran is "planning some sort of stunt." He said the Iranian naval escort is not necessary and that Iran should send the cargo vessel to Djibouti, where humanitarian efforts for Yemen are being coordinated.

The U.S., which supports the coalition, and Saudi Arabia have accused Iran of arming the Yemeni militias, known as Houthis. Iran supports the militias, but both Tehran and the Houthis deny it has provided weapons to them.

A five-day humanitarian cease-fire began Tuesday night, just hours after Saudi-led warplanes targeted the militias and their allies.

There were reports of continued ground fighting in some areas, with security officials and witnesses saying fierce combat broke out about a half-hour after the cease-fire began when militias tried to storm the southern city of Dhale, firing tank shells, rockets and mortars. But no airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition were reported.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:44 - GMT 06:44