On Monday a United Arab Emirates-flagged cargo ship has been highjacked by Iran-aligned Houthis off Yemen's coast in the Red Sea, according to statements by the Saudi coalition.
The vessel was taken near the western Yemeni port of Hodeidah, accused by the Houthi military which controls much of the country's north of conducting "hostile actions" as it "entered Yemeni waters without authorization" overnight.
A Houthi military spokesman further alleged upon seizure of the ship's cargo that the UAE-flagged vessel was transporting military equipment, something denied by the Saudi coalition. The ship was initially bound for the Saudi port of Jizan, which lies just north of the Yemeni border.
However, a Saudi state media announcement dubbed the incident an act of "armed piracy" by the Houthis and said that the ship had only been carry medical equipment after a Saudi field hospital had been dismantled on the island of Socotra.
The coalition asserted the ship carried medical equipment from a dismantled Saudi field hospital in the distant island of Socotra, which lies 240 miles south of the Arabian peninsula.
The military media wing of the Ansarallah Movement (var. Houthis) posted photos of the cargo seized from the UAE ship off the coast of Yemen. https://t.co/2zPTkA2DKf— Leith Bou Phadel (@leithfadel) January 3, 2022
Saudi Brigadier-General Turki al-Malki in the Monday statement said, "The Houthi militia must immediately release the ship, otherwise the coalition forces shall take all necessary measures and procedures to deal with this violation, including the use of force."
The stretch of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden in question remains a critical route for international trade and energy shipments, but has been scene for occasional vessel attacks in recent years connected to the half-decade, ongoing war in Yemen.
#Yemen— IWN (@A7_Mirza) January 3, 2022
Breaking: Ansar Allah confiscated a #UAE ship in the Red Sea
Spokesman for the Yemeni Armed Forces, Yahya al-Sari’, confirmed the seizure of the Emirati ship in a statement, adding that more details would be provided in the coming hours.#Rwabeehttps://t.co/1RjKQOTAlr
The region also of the Arabian Sea has seen the US Navy conduct multiple intercepts of vessels from Iran - in some cases weapons shipments are recovered that were believed destined for the Tehran-backed Houthis.