CAIRO: The Bab al-Mandeb Strait will “never be closed” and the international navigation of the Red Sea will “never be halted,” Houthi spokesperson Mohamed Abdel Salam told Youm7 Friday.
“We respect Egypt, its people, its President, and all the agreements signed between Yemen and the neighboring countries,” Abdel Salam said, noting that Egypt has helped many Arab nations, particularly Yemen, adding that the group had sent this message to Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.
The Anadolu Agency reported Friday that Houthis forces entered Ta’izz, a governorate near the strait, which is located between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula, and Djibouti and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa, and is crucial to maritime navigation.
A Houthi delegation arrived to Cairo early March with the plans to meet Egyptian officials and Arab League representatives to gain more international support.
In September 2014, the Houthis gained control over many cities in northern Yemen; the group clashed with the U.S.-allied Yemeni Army in Sanaa in January, and put Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and his Cabinet members under house arrest.
Hadi, who resigned during the house arrest, escaped from Sanaa to the southern city of Aden Feb. 22, where he announced that he was still the “legitimate president.” He announced that Aden is the official capital of Yemen rather than Sanaa March 7.
On Thursday, Aden’s governor Abdel Aziz bin Habtour said Houthi forces, which are loyal to the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, sent fighter planes to strike the palace in which Hadi resides, but Hadi was unharmed, AP reported.
Since the escalation of the Yemeni crisis, Egypt and Arab and International countries had concerns on the influence of the crisis on the maritime navigation of the strait.
AP reported Feb. 23 that “Egypt has set up a special rapid deployment force” to take a military action and intervene if the Houthis threatened maritime navigation through the Bab al-Mandeb Strait.
The Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahab said in an interview in February “we never allow any threat against Egyptian national security.”
The Egyptian Suez Canal Authority Mohab Mamish said in a press conference, Feb. 4, “Egypt will not accept the closure of the strait in any way, and would intervene militarily if needed…this action affects Egyptian national security, and has a direct impact on the Suez Canal.”
In early February Media reports claimed that Houthis forces of Yemen were expanding their presence around the vital maritime corridor. Yemeni newspapers reported that Iran warned the Houthis against reaching the strait to avoid any possible problems with Egypt.
On Jan. 26, a U.S. military delegation, headed by Deputy Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Rear Admiral James T. Loeblein, paid a two-day visit to Egypt, and discussed the latest developments in Yemen, and their possible effect on maritime navigation in the Red Sea and Arabian Sea, DPA reported.
Additional Reporting by Samar Samir and Hashim al-Fakharany