Saudi Arabia’s military has taken over the command of two strategic Red Sea ports in Yemen, as the Gulf kingdom moves to fill the void left by its leading ally in the war-torn country, the United Arab Emirates.
Saudi officers took command of military bases at the ports of al-Mokha and al-Khokha, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing two Yemeni military commanders and two Yemeni government officials.
The move comes after the UAE announced plans to draw down its forces in Yemen, where it has waged a devastating military campaign alongside Saudi Arabia since 2015 to root out the country’s Houthi rebels.
The base takeover marks Riyadh’s first major action since Abu Dhabi’s announcement.
Emirati forces had used the Red Sea bases to monitor the Yemeni coast and back their campaign in nearby Hodeidah.
The battle over Hodeidah, which is held by the Houthis, has been a centrepoint in the Saudi-led coalition’s campaign to retake key areas of Yemen from the rebels.
A ceasefire was reached in the city after UN-brokered peace talks between in Sweden late last year.
The spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition and the UAE government did not respond to requests for comment, Reuters said.
The news agency also said Riyadh has sent troops to Yemen’s southern port city of Aden and Perim Island, which is located in the Bab el-Mandeb strait between Yemen, Djibouti and Eritrea.
The redeployment also comes amid escalating tensions in the Gulf between Iran and the United States, which earlier this week said it planned to form a military coalition to patrol key shipping channels in the area – including Bab el-Mandeb.
You can read the full article at Middle East Eye here.