Saudi Forces Intercept Houthi Bomb Boat off Hodeidah

An alleged Houthi bomb boat (file image courtesy Saudi Coalition)

Published Sep 19, 2019 7:47 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Saudi-led coalition backing the Yemeni government has destroyed another bomb boat operated by Houthi rebels off the port of Hodeidah, according to Saudi outlet Al Arabiya. 

Coalition spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki said that its forces had defeated "an attempt by the terrorist Houthi militia backed by Iran to carry out an imminent act of aggression and terrorism south of the Red Sea using an unmanned, rigged boat." 

It would not be the first Houthi bomb boat operation: a similar effort in 2017 struck and damaged the Saudi frigate Al-Madinah, killing two crewmembers and injuring three others. Saudi-led forces claim to have intercepted multiple similar vessels over the years since, including two in October 2018 which were allegedly targeted at the port of Jizan. Houthi forces have claimed that they have conducted additional successful attacks, though Saudi reports differ.

On Thursday, Saudi forces also said that they carried out a strike on Houthi military targets at a position north of Hodeidah. 

Washington, Riyadh weigh response to Abqaiq attack

The Houthi rebel government has also claimed responsibility for the recent drone and missile attack on Saudi Aramco's Abqaiq oil processing plant, the largest facility of its kind in the world. The attack has taken about three percent of the world's oil supply temporarily offline, and Aramco is working quickly to repair the damage. 

Saudi and American officials blame Iran for ordering the attack and discount Houthi claims of responsibility. A senior Trump administration official told ABC News on Tuesday that defense analysts believe they have identified a site in southwestern Iran where the missiles were launched. Separately, an American official told CBS on Thursday that Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei personally authorized the strike on the condition that Iranian involvement could be concealed. 

U.S. President Donald Trump has said that he is weighing retaliatory options. His national security team is preparing a set of potential measures for consideration at a meeting Friday, officials said. 

On Thursday, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif told CNN that an American strike would mean "all-out war." "I am making a very serious statement that we don't want war; we don't want to engage in a military confrontation . . . But we won't blink to defend our territory," Zarif said. 

Iraq declines to join security coalition

The government of Iraq announced Thursday that it will not join the U.S.-led International Maritime Security Construct, a joint effort to ensure maritime security in the Strait of Hormuz and Persian Gulf. The Iraqi foreign ministry specifically objected to Israeli involvement in the coalition, saying that Persian Gulf security is a matter for Gulf states. 

“Iraq will not be part of any coalition which aims to provide protection for Gulf navigation,” said spokesman Ahmed Sahaaf, speaking to Kurdish outlet Rudaw English. “Iraq also refuses any Israeli participation in any coalition to protect Gulf navigation.”

The proposal has been active since the attacks on merchant tankers off Fujairah earlier this year, but it has been slow to gain membership. At present, formal members include the United Kingdom, Australia, the Kingdom of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Israel is said to be providing informal cooperation, and Japan has indicated its willingness to divert naval assets to the region. Representatives of about two dozen additional countries attended an opening conference for the coalition's planning group on September 16, according to U.S. Central Command.