Yemen's Houthi rebels have seized an Emirati-flagged vessel in the Red Sea, the insurgents and a Saudi-led coalition said Monday, giving contrasting explanations for the latest escalation in a seven-year war.
The coalition, fighting in support of Yemen's internationally-recognised government, said the vessel was carrying medical supplies but the rebels said they seized "a military cargo ship with military equipment".
"The boat named Rawabi, bearing the flag of the United Arab Emirates, was pirated and kidnapped at 23:57 (2057 GMT) Sunday while off Hodeidah province," coalition spokesman Turki al-Malki said.
In a statement cited by the official Saudi Press Agency, he said the vessel was travelling from Yemen's Socotra island, off the country's south coast.
It was returning to the Saudi city of Jizan carrying medical supplies after finishing a mission to set up a field hospital on the island, Malki said.
The Houthis confirmed they had seized an Emirati-flagged vessel in the Red Sea but their military spokesman Yahya Saree said it had "entered Yemeni waters without authorisation" and was carrying out "hostile acts".
The Saudi-led coalition has been fighting for nearly seven years in support of Yemen's government against the Iran-backed Houthis, and fighting has intensified over the past few weeks.
Riyadh and its allies have accused the Houthis of attacking shipping in the Red Sea, one of the world's busiest maritime lanes leading to the Suez Canal.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said late on Sunday it had received reports of an attack on a vessel near Yemen's port of Ras Isa, which lies slightly north of Hodeidah, and an investigation was under way. It was not immediately clear if it was the same attack.
The last attack near Ras Isa took place in late 2019 when the Houthis briefly seized a Saudi-flagged ship and two South Korean vessels.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)