Houthi militia in Yemen ‘to halt Red Sea shipping attacks’

Houthi militant walks near a ship in Hodeidah. (Reuters)
Updated 31 July 2018
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Houthi militia in Yemen ‘to halt Red Sea shipping attacks’

  • Saudi Arabia suspended oil exports through the Bab Al-Mandeb Strait
  • Unclear whether militia will halt attacks immediately

LONDON: The Houthi militia claimed on Tuesday it was ready to halt attacks on shipping in the Red Sea.

The announcement came days after Saudi Arabia suspended oil exports through the Bab Al-Mandeb Strait after the militants attacked crude tankers last week.

The narrow entrance to the Red Sea is a major conduit for global oil supplies, but the route has been threatened by repeated Houthi attacks from the Yemen coastline under the militia’s control.

“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 Houthi supreme revolutionary committee, Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, said in a statement.

It was not clear whether the group would halt its attacks immediately or how long the cessation would last, Reuters reported. 

Khalid Al-Falih, the Saudi energy minister, said on Thursday that the Kingdom would halt oil shipments through the strait after the Houthis attacked two Saudi oil tankers, one of which sustained light damage, until “the situation becomes clearer and the maritime transit through Bab Al-Mandeb is safe.”

Saudi Arabia exports an estimated 500,000 to 700,000 barrels per day through Bab Al-Mandeb.

The threat to shipping comes as Yemeni pro-government troops supported by the Saudi-led Arab coalition have reached the edge of Yemen’s biggest port Hodeidah, which is still held by the Houthis.

UN special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths has been shuttling between the two sides to broker a peace deal ahead of a coalition assault to capture the city.

The war in Yemen was sparked when the Houthis and their allies seized the capital Sanaa in 2014 from the internationally-recognized government and attempted to seize large parts of the country. The Arab coalition intervened in early 2015 after the Houthis invaded Aden.


Libya reopens Tripoli’s only functioning airport

Updated 33 min 30 sec ago
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Libya reopens Tripoli’s only functioning airport

  • Mitiga airport was closed earlier in the day when residents reported an air strike on the Libyan capital
  • Mitiga airport offers air links to a city of an estimated 2.5 million residents

TRIPOLI: Libya has reopened Tripoli’s only functioning airport, aviation authorities said on a post on social media on Sunday.

Mitiga airport was closed earlier in the day when residents reported an air strike on the Libyan capital, but a later Facebook post noted the arrival of an African Airlines aircraft from Istanbul.

A Reuters reporter and several residents said they saw an aircraft circling for more than 10 minutes over the capital late on Saturday, and that it made a humming sound before opening fire on several areas.

An aircraft was heard again after midnight, circling for more than ten minutes before a heavy explosion shook the ground.

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It was not clear whether an aircraft or unmanned drone was behind the strike, which triggered heavy anti-aircraft fire. Residents had reported drone strikes in recent days, but there has been no confirmation and explosions heard in the city center this time were louder than in previous days.

Residents counted several missile strikes, one of which apparently hit a military camp of forces loyal to Tripoli in the Sabaa district in the south of the capital, scene of the heaviest fighting between the rival forces.

Authorities earlier closed Tripoli’s only functioning airport, cutting air links to a city of an estimated 2.5 million residents. The airport in Misrata, a city 200 km to the east, remained open.

The Libyan National Army (LNA) force loyal to commander Khalifa Haftar started an offensive two weeks ago but has been unable to breach the government’s southern defenses.

If a drone strike was confirmed this would point to more sophisticated warfare. The LNA has so far mainly used aging Soviet-made jets from the air force of Muammar Qaddafi, toppled in 2011, lacking precision firepower and helicopters, according to residents and military sources.

The violence spiked after the White House said on Friday that US President Donald Trump spoke by telephone with Haftar earlier in the week.

The disclosure of the call and a US statement that it “recognized Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources” has boosted the commander’s supporters and enraged his opponents.

Western powers have been divided over a push by Haftar’s forces to seize Tripoli, undermining calls by the United Nations for a cease-fire.

Both sides claimed progress in southern Tripoli on Saturday, but no more details were immediately available.

A Reuters TV cameraman visiting the southern Khalat Furgan suburb heard heavy shelling but saw no apparent change in the frontline.

On Friday, two children were killed in shelling in southern Tripoli, residents said. The fighting has killed 227 people and wounded 1,128, the World Health organization said before the air strikes.

On Thursday, both the United States and Russia said they could not support a UN Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire in Libya at this time.

Russia objects to the British-drafted resolution blaming Haftar for the latest flare-up in violence when his LNA advanced to the outskirts of Tripoli earlier this month, diplomats said.

The United States did not give a reason for its decision not to support the draft resolution, which would also call on countries with influence over the warring parties to ensure compliance and for unconditional humanitarian aid access in Libya.