RIYADH, Jan 10 (Reuters) - The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said on Wednesday it had thwarted an attack on a Saudi oil tanker over the weekend by Houthi fighters near the Red Sea port of Hodeidah.
The coalition destroyed a boat carrying explosives as it headed towards the tanker on Saturday, coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki said.
Yemen lies on the southern mouth of the Red Sea, one of the world’s most important trade routes for oil tankers, which pass its shores as they head from the Middle East through the Suez Canal to Europe.
“There is no doubt that Hodeidah Port has now become a starting point for terrorist operations to threaten the maritime navigation in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab strait,” Maliki said.
Yemen’s armed Houthi movement threatened to block the Red Sea shipping lane on Tuesday if the coalition keeps pushing towards the Houthi-controlled port of Hodeidah, SABA news agency reported.
Maliki said the United Nations should take the initiative and take control of the port from the armed group.
U.N. officials have been trying to get the two sides back to the negotiating table after talks collapsed in 2016.
Yemen, one of the Arab world’s poorest countries, is embroiled in a proxy war between the Houthis, who are allied with Iran, and a U.S.-backed military coalition headed by Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi-led coalition has been trying since the start of the war in March 2015 to capture Hodeidah, which receives 80 percent of Yemen’s imports, and has in recent weeks launched a ground campaign and intensified air strikes. (Reporting by Sarah Dadouch; Editing by Stephen Kalin and William Maclean)