AL-MUKALLA: A drone launched by the Iran-backed Houthis hit a commercial port in the southern Yemeni province of Shabwa on Wednesday when an oil tanker was offloading fuel.
A local official told Arab News that the drone landed near an oil ship at the Rudum terminal. No casualties were reported in the latest in a string of drone strikes on government-controlled ports since early last month.
“The strike appears to be a warning, similar to those on the Dhabbah port in Hadramout and the Al-Nashima port in Shabwa,” said a Yemeni official who requested anonymity.
The internationally recognized government designated the Houthi movement as a terrorist group in October after drone attacks on oil installations in Hadramout and Shabwa.
An earlier attack on Hadramout’s Al-Mukalla port, on Oct. 25, came days after the government threatened to withdraw from a UN-brokered truce and the Stockholm Agreement, which seeks to keep goods and humanitarian aid flowing through Yemen’s ports.
The movement has threatened to attack ships taking oil to the international market if the government does not pay public employees in regions under Houthi control.
This is despite agreeing in the UN-brokered truce to pay them with cash gained from fuel ships entering Hodeidah port, with the government making up any shortfall.
Yemeni experts and analysts argue that the Houthis began attacks on government-run ports after the administration opted not to use force to defend itself.
Ali Al-Fakih, editor of Al-Masdar Online, told Arab News that the Houthis’ first two drone assaults in Shabwa and Hadramout were intended to test the government.
"The Houthis want to send a message to the world that they control Yemeni ports and that all transactions must be done with their authorization,” he said. “They aim to impose their hegemony, compelling everyone to accept their conditions.”
Rashad Al-Alimi, head of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, said in a speech to Arab leaders in Algeria on Nov. 3 that Houthi drone attacks caused his administration to shut off oil shipments through oil facilities in Hadramout and Shabwa.