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Mon 3 Oct 2016 09:59 AM

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Arab league condemns attack on UAE aid vessel

US State Department condemned the attack and said it has affected prospects for a peaceful settlement to the conflict

Arab league condemns attack on UAE aid vessel
Image for illustrative purpose only. (Getty Images)

The Arab League has condemned the Houthi militia for targeting the UAE civilian ship "Swift", which was on a routine voyage to deliver humanitarian aid to Yemen.

Ahmed Abul Ghait, Secretary General of the Arab League, described the attack as "unacceptable and violating international laws", according to news agency WAM.

Mahmoud Afifi, the Arab League's Spokesman, said in a statement that the attack by this militia gave a serious indication of threats facing civilian and commercial ships in a strategic Red Sea shipping lane.

The vessel, an Australian-built high-speed logistics catamaran under lease to the UAE military, was attacked by Houthi fighters near the Bab al-Mandab strait off Yemen's southern coast on Saturday. The coalition rescued its civilian passengers. No crew were hurt.

In a statement late on Saturday, the coalition said the vessel belonged to the UAE Marine Dredging Company "on its usual route to and from Aden to transfer relief and medical aid and evacuate wounded civilians to complete their treatment outside Yemen."

"Coalition air and naval forces were targeting Houthi militia boats involved in the attack," it said.

The coalition said the incident showed that Houthi tactics involved what it called "terrorist attacks" against civilian international navigation in the waterway.

The Houthis said on Saturday, however, that their forces had destroyed a UAE military vessel that was advancing toward the Red Sea port of Al-Mokha.

"Armed forces destroyed with a missile a military vessel belonging to the forces of the UAE," a military official was quoted as saying by the Saba Yemeni news agency, run by the dominant Houthi movement since it seized the capital, Sanaa, last year.

The US State Department condemned the attack, called on the Houthi group to stop attacks against vessels and said the United States "remains committed to upholding freedom of navigation" through the strait.

"These provocative actions risk exacerbating the current conflict and narrow the prospects for a peaceful settlement," State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement, calling on all parties to return to UN negotiations aimed at de-escalating tensions in the conflict.

Hundreds of Emirati soldiers in an Arab alliance have been fighting Yemen's Iran-allied Houthis, and training Yemeni troops in Aden to help rebuild a state loyal to exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

In 2013, more than 3.4 million barrels of oil a day passed through the 20-km (12-mile) wide Bab al-Mandab strait, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.