800 Egypt troops boost Yemen force

Updated 11 September 2015
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800 Egypt troops boost Yemen force

SANAA: As many as 800 Egyptian soldiers arrived in Yemen late on Tuesday, Egyptian security sources said, swelling the ranks of a Gulf Arab military contingent which aims to rout the Iran-allied Houthi group after a five-month civil war.
It was the first reported deployment of ground troops there by Egypt, which has one of the Arab world's strongest armies.
A coalition led by Saudi Arabia has scored major gains against the militia and its allies in Yemen's army, backing a push by Yemeni fighters to seize much of the country's south and now setting its sights on the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa.
Four Egyptian units of between 150 to 200 troops along with tanks and transport vehicles arrived in Yemen late on Tuesday, two Egyptian security sources said.
"We have sent these forces as part of Egypt's prominent role in this alliance ... the alliance fights for the sake of our brotherly Arab states, and the death of any Egyptian soldier would be an honour and considered martyrdom for the sake of innocent people," a senior Egyptian military source said.
Yemeni officials put the number of foreign troops from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar at least around 2,000, while Qatari-owned Al Jazeera TV said at least 10,000 foreign soldiers had arrived, including 1,000 from the emirate.
They are part of a force preparing to eventually assault the capital, which the Houthis seized last year.
The alliance sees the campaign as a fight against the influence of arch-rival Iran in their neighbourhood, but the Houthis say they are fighting a revolution against a corrupt government, which they drove into Saudi exile in late March.
More than 4,500 people have been killed by fighting and air strikes since the beginning of the conflict, which has also unleashed disease and hunger in the impoverished country.
Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asseri, a spokesman for the coalition, told Reuters its forces were focusing on overcoming Houthi resistance in Yemen's central and southern provinces, pounding their positions from the air across the country before beginning any thrust towards Sanaa.
"Before you start the ground operation, you have to have the prerequisite of the air campaign," al-Asseri said.
"I don't want to talk about Sanaa because the military issue is in phases ... Now we are talking of Marib and Taiz."
Residents reported heavy air raids on military bases throughout Sanaa on Wednesday, the latest in a series of daily assaults which fishermen said killed 20 Indian nationals off a Red Sea port on Tuesday. At least 15 other civilians were killed throughout the country on Tuesday, medics said.
The alliance has increased air strikes on Sanaa and other parts of Yemen since Friday, when a Houthi missile attack killed at least 60 Saudi, Bahraini and United Arab Emirates soldiers at a military camp in central Marib province.

(Additional reporting by Mohammed Ghobari and Angus McDowall)


Sabotage of oil tankers stirs concerns over Gulf shipping

Updated 22 May 2019
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Sabotage of oil tankers stirs concerns over Gulf shipping

  • The acts of sabotage near the UAE coast highlight new threat to maritime traffic and global oil supplies
  • Experts say increased threat to navigation and global oil supplies not limited regionally but has global dimension

DUBAI: Amid rising tensions between the US and Iran, sabotage attacks on four commercial vessels off the coast of the UAE’s Fujairah port have raised serious questions about maritime security in the Gulf.

The incidents, which included attacks on two Saudi oil tankers, were revealed by the UAE government on May 12, drawing strong condemnation from governments in the Middle East and around the world as well as the Arab League.

Now experts have warned that the sabotage attacks highlight a new threat to maritime traffic and global oil supplies.

A Saudi government source said: “This criminal act constitutes a serious threat to the security and safety of maritime navigation, and adversely affects regional and international peace and security.”

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said the incidents threatened international maritime traffic.

While crimes on the high seas, including piracy, have tapered off in recent years, the attacks on the ships, three of which are registered to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have called into question common assumptions about the Gulf’s stability.

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Theodore Karasik, a senior adviser at Gulf State Analytics in Washington D.C., said governments of the Gulf region are mandated to watch over oceans and waterways. “On top of this requirement is the need for a new regime of maritime coordination to prevent attacks on shipping because of the repercussions for logistical chains, corporate strategies and insurance rates,” he told Arab News.

The sabotage attacks took place east of Fujairah port, outside the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway through which most Gulf oil exports pass and which Iran has threatened to block in the event of a military confrontation with the US.

Johan Obdola, president of the International Organization for Security and Intelligence, said the recent attacks underscore the need for closer intelligence-coordinated capabilities among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, including satellite communication and maritime or vessel security technology.

“The threats to oil tankers are not limited to the Gulf, but have a global dimension,” he said.

According to Obdola: “A coordinated joint task force integrating oil, intelligence security and military forces should be (established) to project and prepare (for potential future attacks). This is a time to be as united as ever.”

GCC countries have intensified security in international waters, the US navy said. Additionally, two US guided-missile destroyers entered the Gulf on May 16 in response to what the US called signs of possible Iranian aggression.

“The attack has brought (the region) a bit closer to a possible military confrontation amid the escalation in tensions between the US and Iran,” Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a former chairman of the Arab Council for Social Sciences, told Arab News.

He said Iran is purposely dragging Saudi Arabia, the UAE and possibly other Gulf countries into its fight with the US. “The credibility of the US is at stake and Trump has said he will meet any aggression with unrelenting force. If Iran continues on this path, we might see some kind of a military showdown on a limited scale.”

Given the importance of the region’s oil supplies to the US, Abdulla said “it’s not just the responsibility of Arab Gulf states but an international responsibility” to keep the shipping lanes safe.