As Lashkar, Jaish plan sea borne attacks, how equipped is India to fight the maritime threat

New Delhi, July 19: An Intelligence Bureau report suggests that terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad are planning an attack from the seas. This means that the terror groups would try and hit the Indian Navy.
The input which has been considered as an actionable one has prompted the Indian Navy to be on high alert. In addition to this the IB has also warned that a group of terrorists are waiting near the Leepa Valley, Dudhnihal and Kel to infiltrate into India.
The attack from the seas was witnessed during the 26/11 attack. This time around the alert suggests that the terrorists of both the groups are training hard in a bid to launch an attack on the Indian Navy. The threat looms large in the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra, an IB officer told OneIndia.
How equipped are these terror groups?
Several intelligence reports available with OneIndia state that the naval wing of these groups is handled by the Musa Company, which is the special services group of the Pakistan Army.
The naval wing of these terrorist groups is not often used by terror groups. It is part of the surprise element, the reports state. Since 2004, it had become mandatory for every Lashkar-e-Tayiba recruit to undergo a certain amount of maritime training. This apart, the terrorists also take part in classes on elementary flying.
As part of the training programme, the first class is held in Thakot and then at Murdike. The training programme comes to a close at Karachi and each of these sessions is conducted by officers of the Musa company.
Why the maritime threat needs to be taken seriously?
In the days to come the sea route would be the most preferred for terrorists. It is impossible to man the entire sea and hence in this regard, intelligence and coordination becomes the key. In addition to this there is also a dire need to introduce hi-tech technology to aid the Intelligence Bureau.
The reason why Intelligence, technology and coordination becomes crucial is because 90 per cent of the world trade is sea based and it is impossible to man each and every vessel on the sea. The smaller ones in particular pose the maximum danger.
The al-Shahbab- Lashkar-e-Tayiba bonhomie:

In a bid to boost up the maritime capabilities, the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the al-Shahbab came together in 2011. The coming together of these two outfits was specifically to spruce up their maritime capabilities.

Investigations conducted have revealed that the pirates from Somalia who are dominant on Indian waters were sponsored by the al-Shahbab group which is linked to the al-Qaeda.
It was the ISI that had suggested that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the al-Shahbab come together and carry out strikes. The idea was to send out the terrorists along with some of the pirates in a bid to carry out strikes.
Since manning all vessels is an impossible task for India alone, it became necessary to seek the cooperation of other nations such as Africa. The Lashkar-e-Tayiba on the other hand entered into several alliances in a bid to spruce up its maritime capabilities. An operative by the name Abu Yakub was tasked with coordinating with the al-Shahbab.
A plan hatched back in 2011 indicated that these groups would send out several pirates into the sea in a bid to keep the Indian Navy busy. On the other hand they would take advantage of the situation and then get their terrorists to launch an attack on the Navy.
Post the 26/11 attack, maritime security had been increased. There are over 400 warships which are on guard. In addition to this several more coastal police stations were set up and the fishermen were roped in to provide human intelligence.
Maritime capabilities of terror groups:

Lashkar-e-Tayiba: High speed recreational boats, scuba diving equipment, water scooters.
Al Qaeda: Capable of underwater strikes by its suicide squad. Heavily dependant on Lashkar-e-Tayiba for equipment.
Jaish-e-Mohammad: Armed with 600 sea specialists, coordinates with Lashkar-e-Tayiba for equipment.
Jemmah Islamiah: Attempted an attack on a US vessel in Singapore, the groups is equipped with speed boats also known as suicide boats. Abu Sayaaf: Bombed the Super Ferry in 2004 that killed 100. High level of experience on sea, but still uses wooden boats loaded with machine guns.
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Ghana steps up attempts to improve maritime safety

As piracy increases in the world’s oceans, maritime safety requires a collaborative effort to ensure safety of lives and protection of property at sea. Under this, the Ghana Maritime Authority organized a 4-Day Crisis Response Training for security experts and players in the maritime sector, from 9 to 12 of July.

This exercise aimed to prepare the Ghana’s Crisis Response Team to combat any unforeseen incident on Ghana’s maritime domain. The training wanted to improve inter-agency cooperation in ensuring smooth maritime rescue activities.

Facilitators from the Gulf of Guinea Interregional Network updated trainees on current trends in maritime safety and security measures to save life at sea while also monitoring illegal activities such as illegal bunkering and oil spillage.

During the training, a simulation exercise took place for trainees to learn how to prevent an illegal oil bunkering. To check the effectiveness and competence of the program, trainees were divided into various units called cells according to their technical expertise.

Director General of the Ghana Maritime Authority, Mr. Kwame Owusu mentioned that Ghana is fully prepared to respond successfully to any maritime crisis. He also added that the Authority is preparing patrol vessels and drones to thwart potential pirates and other threats on the Ghanaian waters.

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UN says anti-piracy fund has boosted maritime security in Somalia

The UN counter-piracy fund that has been in existence since 2011 has boosted maritime security in Somalia and Western Indian Ocean coastline through enhanced prosecution of culprits, an official said.

Jaime Serpanchy, the Secretary of UN Counter Piracy Trust Fund (CPTF), said that technical support for countries affected by piracy in the Horn of Africa region has improved their capacity to prosecute criminals involved in the vice.

“The trust fund’s primary mission which is to assist countries in the horn and eastern African region carry out piracy prosecutions has been a success,” said Serpanchy.

“We are assisting these countries including Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and Seychelles to counter all aspects of piracy through training of maritime police and agencies involved in prosecution of suspects,” she added.

The UN official spoke to Xinhua on the sidelines of the 21st Plenary Session on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia attended by an estimated 200 delegates from 68 countries.

Senior policymakers, representatives of multilateral agencies and security experts attended the three day Nairobi summit to discuss new strategies to eradicate piracy in Somalia waters.

Serpanchy said the UN counter piracy trust fund has facilitated the roll out of forty projects in the greater horn and eastern African region to promote maritime security that is key to economic growth.

“The biggest impact of the fund so far is the establishment of a piracy prosecution center in Seychelles. It is the only centre of its kind in the world,” Serpanchy said.

She noted the establishment of a specialized center to deal with maritime crimes has contributed to a sharp drop in hijacking of commercial vessels in Somalia and Western Indian Ocean coastlines.

“It is now possible to try pirates caught in the high seas and prevent them from interacting with the outside world,” said Serpanchy.

She revealed that the UN counter piracy trust fund has supported training of Kenyan prison personnel on human rights based prosecution of criminals involved in hijacking of merchant ships.

Source: Xinhua

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Three armed robberies against ships in Asia reported to ReCAAP ISC last week

In its weekly piracy report for 10-16 July 2018, ReCAAP ISC informed of three incidents of armed robbery against ships in Asia.

The first incident involved the LNG tanker ‘Innovator’. While anchored at Delta Anchorage Area Banuan, Batangas, Philippines, on 6 July, perpetrators boarded the ship, store ship stores and escaped. The duty watch alerted the master who sounded the general alarm and mustered the crew.

The hawse pipe was slightly moved and the crew suspected that the perpetrators had climbed through the anchor chain. The master reported the incident to VTMS Batangas. The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) conducted an investigation and advised the master to take precautionary measures while anchored at Batangas Port.

The second incident involved the tug boat ‘Bintang Ocean 3’ and the barge ‘Winbuild 2313’, approximately 3.8 nm northeast of Tanjung Sengkuang, Pulau Batam, Indonesia, in the eastbound lane of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) of the Singapore Strait, on 7 July.

While tug boat, Bintang Ocean 3 towing barge, Winbuild 2313 was underway, Singapore Police Coast Guard reported to Singapore Port Operations Control Centre (POCC) at 0130 hrs that two sampans were spotted alongside Winbuild 2313. The VTIS Central contacted the tug boat and the master replied that everything was fine. At about 0320 hrs, the Singapore Police Coast Guard again reported to POCC that the two same sampans were still following at the stern of Winbuild 2313. At about 0325 hrs, the tug master reported to VTIS East that four coils of tow line were missing from Winbuild 2313.

Upon arrival at Changi Barge Holding Anchorage on the same day at about 0800 hrs, the Singapore Police Coast Guard boarded the ships and conducted an investigation. The crew was not injured.

The third incident involved the product tanker ‘Maersk Cancun’, on 10 July. While at berth at Sandakan Port, East Malaysia, an unknown number of perpetrators boarded the ship, stole ship stores and escaped. The deck watch crew later discovered that the forepeak store locker padlock was broken.

Upon checking, a ship’s bell, a coil of heaving line and two bicycles were found missing. The agent and PFSO were informed and thereafter, the local police conducted an investigation and took a statement from the Chief Officer. The crew was not injured.

The ReCAAP ISC urges ship master and crew to report all incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships to the nearest coastal State and flag State, exercise vigilance and adopt relevant preventive measures taking reference from the Regional Guide to Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia.

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Fight for Port of Hodeidah Stalls

The Saudi- and UAE-backed campaign to retake the port of Hodeidah, Yemen from Houthi rebels has come to a near-halt, one month after Yemeni government forces began their offensive. Despite promises of a quick, decisive victory that would give the Saudi-led coalition new leverage in negotiations with the Houthis, the battle lines remain stalled at Hodeidah’s airport, which lies on the other side of the city from the port complex.

While the fighting has slowed, the coalition has not indicated any change in its desire to retake the port and expel Houthi forces from the city. In UN-facilitated negotiations, the coalition’s members continue to insist that the Houthis must withdraw, unconditionally. As a compromise, Houthi leaders have offered to transfer control of port operations to the United Nations if they can remain in the city.

Some international observers – notably the Democratic party leadership in the United States Congress – have expressed support for this arrangement, and have encouraged the coalition to accept it as an alternative to a protracted seige. In a letter to the governments of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Representatives Steny Hoyer, Eliot Engel, Nita Lowey, Adam Schiff and Ted Deutch called for assurances that the port of Hodeidah’s operations would continue uninterrupted, and suggested that the coalition should “be flexible with regard to [its] requirements” – in particular, the demand that the Houthis leave the city and port.

Rep. Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee’s ranking member, linked his concerns over Hodeidah to American assistance. The Saudi coalition’s air campaign is facilitated by foreign in-flight refueling services, and its ground forces are resupplied with munitions purchased abroad. The U.S. State Department approved a $1 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia in March, including $670 million for anti-tank missiles, $100 million for military helicopter maintenance, and $300 million in parts for Saudi tanks and military vehicles. “If an offensive by Saudi Arabia and the UAE further escalates the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, President Trump must make it clear that it will jeopardize the U.S. support that has helped enable the military campaign in Yemen,” said Rep. Schiff.

However, a political agreement to end the fighting may take some time to materialize. In a statement carried by pro-coalition social media, Yemeni Republican Guards Brigadier Tariq Saleh said that he is “preparing for the post-Hodeidah-battle,” and will continue to advance until the Houthi capital at Sanaa is retaken. Social media reports indicate that coalition airstrikes and fighting around the airport continue.

Humanitarian concerns

Aid groups have expressed concern that fighting in Hodeidah could lead to casualties among Yemen’s civilian population, including some of the estimated eight million people who are already at risk of starvation in the country. Hodeidah is the primary port of entry for Yemen’s food and medicine imports, and an interruption in the flow of relief supplies could have an impact on aid efforts. Separately, damage to water mains and sewer lines could raise the risk of a cholera outbreak within the city – especially given Yemen’s hot weather.

An estimated 35,000 people have fled to escape the fighting on Hodeidah’s outskirts, according to the charity Mona Relief, including 12,000 people who traveled inland to Sanaa. Aid groups are distributing food in Sanaa to assist displaced families.

Source: The Maritime Executive

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Is there conspiracy against Nigeria?

*As report pressures freight, insurance rates *Nigeria may still lead Q2 ‘18 piracy ranking There are indications that the upcoming security   report on Nigeria’s marine space may worsen with operators accusing international interest groups of mischief over the report. But Nigerian maritime industry stakeholders also indicated that despite the controversial nature of the figures on piracy attacks the number of incidences would certainly increase and Nigeria would maintain lead on the global piracy ranking in the second quarter, 2018.

Top 5 pirates prone countries: Q1’18 and Pirates attack on vessels: Q1’18 The International Maritime Bureau, IMB, in its first quarter 2018, Q1’18, reports, noted that Nigeria currently leads in global pirates attacks against vessels. In the IMB report, Nigeria alone recorded a total of 22  of the 45 as against Indonesia that recorded nine attacks and Venezuela has five attacks in the first three months of the year. Global pirate attacks while four other countries namely Venezuela, Indonesia, Republic of Benin and Bangladesh recorded a total of 23 attacks.

A breakdown of the report showed that Bangladesh recorded four and  Republic of Benin had five while. Although, maritime security experts have contested the figure of the IMB, saying that number of attacks recorded in Nigeria during the quarter is likely to be lower, some foreign shipping firms confided in Vanguard Maritime Report  that Nigeria do not have credible data as information on attacks go straight to the foreign ship owners who in turn report to the international organisation (IMB) rather than Nigerian authorities.

Some Nigerian operators have played down the figures, attributing it to plans by the developed countries to paint developing countries such as Nigeria, in security bad light, leading to increase in freight rates and marine insurance. Speaking with  Vanguard Maritime Report, President of the Ship-owners Association of Nigeria, SOAN, and  Managing Director/CEO of Starzs Marine and Engineering Limited, Greg Ogbeifun, said the report should not be taken serious as it is only meant to promote the interest of international operators.

According to him, “Personally I am not too bordered about piracy or whatever, they are always working to paint Nigeria black. I am not moved by their comments and that is the truth. They are the ones that are encouraging all these strives and unrest in all the developing countries and then they will also turn around to begin to complain. “I said there wouldn’t have been piracy in this country if there were no international connection to illegal bunkering. Those people are the ones behind all these problems we talk about. So they should stop stoking all these improprieties against developing countries, they should stop encouraging it.

“All the piracy money, all the kidnapping money that they are collecting, who is collecting it, are they paying the money into Nigerian banks? They are not paying the money into Nigerian backs; they are paying it into foreign countries. “They are the ones encouraging it, some I do not think that we should be overly blaming ourselves or feeling bad because some foreign body says that Nigeria has now become a hub for piracy.” On whether members of SOAN has not been affected he responded, “Am not aware of any of my members who have been affected, most of the piracy attacks take place far away from the coast of Nigeria, it is not necessarily in-country attack.

There was a time we use to have such attacks but for sometimes now we have not had in-country piracy attacks.” Similarly, the Chairman of the Port Facility Security Officers, PFSO Forum, Dr. Ignatius Uche, agreed with school of thought that there could be a conspiracy against Nigeria in this regard. He said that the issue of pirate attacks on vessels at the terminal has put virtually every government agency operating at the ports on their toes as the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, has approved money for the purchase of patrol boats to checkmate the activities of these criminals.

Uche described the situation as very embarrassing adding that the trend was beginning to put Nigeria on the spot in the international maritime comity. He said that figures being bandied by the IMB are not the same with what is recorded by the Nigerian authorities.

According to him the official Nigerian figure should be around 13 attacks in Q1’18. But going by this figure Nigerian would remain the global leader in piracy as the second highest number of attack recorded by IMB is Indonesia with 9 attacks.

However, Uche said “the more these criminals are allowed to operate, the more money and credibility the country is losing. An official of International Ship and Port Facility Security, ISPS Code Unit of NIMASA who spoke to Vanguard Maritime Report on the condition of anonymity said that the issue of pirate attacks on vessels was an international conspiracy by the international shipping community.

The officer said that Nigeria get reports of these attacks from the international maritime organisations as crewmen make these report directly to the principal abroad. The official explained that when these attacks take place, it places high freight premium on Nigerian bound cargoes which attracts more freight payments and marine insurance premium. Former Senior Special Adviser to Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr. Leke Oyewole, told  Vanguard Maritime Report  that “as long as that security gap remains, that there is no proper patrol around the ports and the anchorage, this trend will continue. “For the second quarter 2018 report the figure is likely to increase if nothing is done to stem the tide of pirate attacks on vessels.”

The fear of increase in pirates attack is coming against the cancellation of a maritime security contract by President Muhammedu Buhari due to the protest by a section of maritime stakeholders against what they saw as unwholesome interest in the deal. The cancellation of the contract was commended  by maritime security experts saying that it was absurd for the nation’s Navy to work under a foreign private security firm as provided in the contract terms.

The Nigerian piracy headaches had come a long way prompting the former management of NIMASA to structure an international security contract with Global West Specialist Vessels to address the problem. Under the arrangement NIMASA and Nigerian government was not going to pay any contract sum for the security, rather the contractor would be expected to beef up security to enable NIMASA make money from the ships. In turn the contractor would earn a percentage of the extra revenue. But this arrangement was cancelled by the current administration on grounds that the contract was a conduit pipe to siphon monies from the agency. However, a new security contract was initiated by the present administration where Nigeria would pay USD195 million (about N60billion) to a private security firm for beefing up security at the territorial and coastal waters. But the contract amount raised so much dust that the National Assembly was forced to invite the Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaech, who refused to appear before its committees set up to look into the contract.

Eventually President Mohammadu Buhari was forced to cancel the contract and ordered that the USD50 million upfront payment be recovered by the way of getting the foreign contractor to supply items equivalent to the amount. The contract, signed off by the Federal Executive Council in December 2017, would have seen the contractor, HSLi,  an Israeli security firm,  rake in $195 million in exchange for an undisclosed number of special mission aircraft, special mission helicopters and 12 fast intervention vessels for the Nigerian Navy. Reacting to the cancellation of the contract Amaechi, Oyewole, while commending President Buhari for cancelling the contract, said that if that contract had been allowed to work, it would have been worse than the Global West contract. He said that the Nigerian Navy is the authority with legal powers to monitor and protect the nation’s maritime domain adding that the Navy should be funded and provided with patrol boats. “I fully support the cancellation of that contract simply because it would have been worse than the Global West contract because the Navy cannot be subjected to work under a foreign private company. “It is odd for the Nigerian Navy to work under it. It is an absurdity that is inconsiderable. To that extent I support the cancellation of that contract. “In the time of Global West, though it was not security firm, the whole of Nigeria cried foul. “The Navy is the only authority that has the mandate to secure the nation’s maritime space.

The Navy should be properly funded and patrol boats should be provided for them. “During the Jonathan era, Global West contract with NIMASA worked out perfectly. What they (NIMASA) did was to sign an MOU with the Navy and gladly enough, Navy came on board to subdue piracy in Lagos and other maritime space across the Nigerian waters which continue until 2015. “As soon as the NIMASA-Global West was pulled down, there was space for the rascals to operate again. “They started by operating off-shore, now they have developed the effrontery to operate even at the ports which is very bad for Nigeria because the freight of goods coming to Nigeria will increase. “This development is not telling any good story about Nigeria.” Way forward Oyewole suggested that the NPA, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and the NIMASA should form a synergy to provide a security platform, where NNPC can provide fuel and NPA and NIMASA can provide money to buy the boats for Navy to operate so as to build a sustainable arrangement to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria. He suggested that there is a need for the country to have a robust surveillance system adding that all processes of ship operations and payments are integrated with the surveillance system. Oyewole said that there must be electronics platform to report any infractions by vessels anywhere in the country. “A special maritime force should be created and sustainable funding mechanism and the Automated Identification System, AIS, be replaced with a better technology. The AIS should be improved upon and make our waters safe so that the payment of high freight rate and marine insurance premium which has been the target of the foreign shipping firms be stopped,” he stated.

Source: Vanguard, Nigeria

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Suspicious approach – Bab el Mandeb

Date: 11/07/2018

Time: 08:10 UTC

At 0810 UTC on 11 July an MV reported sighting a group of skiffs in PSN – 1322N 04245E (Southern Red sea / Bab El Mandeb) One skiff with 8 POB approached to within 0.2NM and crew report sighting a ladder. No aggressive manoeuvres. AST showed weapons and skiff withdrew.

Source: UKMTO

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13 Abu Sayyaf surrender

The Philippine military on Sunday urged anew Abu Sayyaf bandits to surrender peacefully and return to the fold of the law, after 13 fighters yielded in Sulu. Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), said the bandits surrendered over the weekend to the 2nd Special Force Battalion under Lt. Col. Jessie Montoya, in Samak village, Talipao town. Besana said: “The surrenders brought with them assorted high and low-powered firearms and promised to bring more after their initial processing at the headquarters of the 2nd Special Forces Battalion.” He also quoted task force commander Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo as saying: “This is a clear manifestation that we are achieving our goal of clearing Sulu province of the menace of the Abu Sayyaf through peaceful means by giving them a better option and to re-embrace the true essence of Islam.” Lt. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, WestMinCom chief, lauded the decision of the rebels and assured them of government aid as part of “Oplan: Balik-loob.”

Source: Manila times

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Conflict and piracy threat remain in East Africa and Indian Ocean

Regional conflict and piracy threats continue to pose potential risks to commercial vessels operating in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, and Indian Ocean, warned the US MARAD.

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Thousands flee key Yemeni port city as Hodeida offensive continues

 Thousands of civilians continue to flee the strategic port city of Hodeida while those remaining are gripped by perpetual fear of airstrikes, said residents and aid workers this week as diplomats press for a cease-fire and peace talks.

The offensive for Hodeida, launched last month, is widely seen as a critical juncture in Yemen’s three-year civil war pitting northern rebels against the Yemeni government, which is backed by a regional coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The city’s port is a vital gateway for food, medicine and other crucial supplies to rebel-held areas in a country gripped by the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. A prolonged battle for the city of 600,000 residents could lead to the deaths and displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, the United Nations has warned.

More than 121,000 residents have fled the city and other parts of the province since June 1, the U.N. said this week.

Those who remain in the city are in limbo, unsure when the fighting will reach their neighborhoods. The streets are mostly empty, as residents hunker down inside their homes. Most shops and businesses are shuttered, residents said.


People displaced by the fighting near Hodeida line up for U.N. aid on June 27. (Abduljabbar Zeyad/Reuters)

“We don’t know what the coming days will bring, but we pray that Allah will keep us safe,” said Mohammed Noori, 28, a resident in the eastern part of the city, all of which is under the control of the rebels, known as the Houthis.

The collective fears persist even as the UAE, whose forces and allies are leading the offensive for Hodeida, announced a pause in its assault on the city to allow time for U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths to broker a peaceful resolution. On Wednesday, Griffiths met with the Houthis’ leaders — talks he described as productive — and he briefed the U.N. Security Council on Thursday before meeting in the coming days with the exiled Yemeni government.

Diplomats are also counting on the backing of Iran, which supports the Houthis, in sealing an agreement that will eventually allow the U.N. to control Hodeida’s port.

Iran has been “very cooperative” in recent months on Yemen, said a senior international diplomat involved in efforts to end the war who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive negotiations freely. Struggling against newly reimposed U.S. sanctions, Tehran is “under pressure to show something nice for the international community.” In general, the diplomat said Yemen was a “sideshow” for Iran and basically just a way to irritate the Saudis, who largely entered the war fearing that Iran is seeking to gain regional influence through the Houthis.

“I think Iran is ready for an agreement” on Yemen, the diplomat said.

Previously, he added, there had been a deal with both sides to allow the U.N. to control the Hodeida port, but it fell apart because the Houthis insisted that they keep control of the city of Hodeida. A senior Houthi leader on Thursday blamed the coalition for the lack of an agreement, saying that coalition forces have continued their push to take the city.

“We don’t mind stopping the fighting in Hodeida in order to enter comprehensive and complete negotiations,” said Saleem Mughalles, a member of the rebels’ political bureau. “However, the coalition should stop the fighting there. The fighting is still ongoing until this moment.”

On Thursday, aid agencies working in Yemen urged all sides to broker a deal.

“U.S., British, French and Iranian diplomats must do all they can to push the warring parties to cooperate with the U.N. envoy in agreeing on an immediate cease-fire and a new round of peace talks,” Mohamed Abdi, country director for the Norwegian Refugee Council, said in a statement via email. “We cannot allow a continued battle for [Hodeida] to take more innocent lives of a people who have already been through an unbearable amount of suffering.

On the ground, the fighting intensified this week in and around the city, although the situation on the ground remained largely static, the aid group said, adding that the city “remains largely calm, but tense.” Fuel, gas, food and water are available, but there are widespread blackouts, residents said. Some described Hodeida as a “ghost city.”

“There is no movement on the streets,” said Noori, the Hodeida resident. “Most families have left leaving only one family member in the house to protect it from being broken into and looted. My family has left to [the capital] Sanaa. I had to stay behind to take care of and protect our house.”

Many shop owners have barricaded their stores with bricks to prevent looting. Most restaurants have closed, as have many money lenders, creating a cash-liquidity crisis. The prices of staple goods have soared.

“One of the biggest problems we are facing is a lack of goods and medicines in stores,” said Naji Alrabasi, who heads a labor union. “When I asked some of the owners for the reason, they told me that most suppliers have stopped supplying them. This is one of the reasons why prices have gone up so much.”

On many streets, the rebels have dug trenches and erected sand barricades, preparing for possible street-by-street clashes against the coalition forces, residents said.

Even the province’s deputy governor fled the city.

“I expect more people to leave,” said Hashem Alaz’azi, who spoke from the city of Ibb, where he now lives with relatives. “The people in the city are suffering, and it is expected the suffering will get worse.”

Source: The Washington post

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