Saudi allies in Yemen fight each other over remote island

Published 10.05.2019 00:18

The Yemeni government has accused the United Arab Emirates (UAE) of landing around 100 separatist troops on a remote island in the Arabian Sea this week, a claim the UAE denied, deepening a rift between nominal allies in Yemen's war.

The UAE has had a tense relationship with the government and has recruited thousands of fighters from a movement of southern separatists who have clashed with government troops. Yemeni officials said around 100 separatist fighters had disembarked in civilian clothes on Monday from a UAE naval vessel on Socotra, the main island at a sparsely populated Yemeni archipelago in the Arabian Sea.

Yemen's interior minister, reacting to reports that southern separatist troops were headed for Socotra, criticized the UAE last week and said it should concentrate on fighting the Houthis. "I think our partnership with the coalition is the war against the Houthis and not sharing the administrations of the liberated territories," Ahmed al-Mayssari said in comments broadcast by Yemeni television channels.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, denied the reports. "It is among the fake news that I have seen today," Gargash said later on Twitter, without elaborating.

The Yemeni island of Socotra continues to be a source of tension between Saudi Arabia and its biggest partner in the Yemen war, the UAE. In May 2018, the UAE, a pillar of the Saudi-led coalition, faced anger for deploying troops to the Yemeni island of Socotra in the Arabian Sea. In defiance of the UAE's move on the island, Saudi Arabia deployed troops to Yemen's Socotra as a confidence-building measure over complaints by Yemen's government that the UAE deployed troops there without its permission, revealing the growing rivalry between the two allies.

In Yemen's civil war, the UAE is part of the Saudi-led coalition battling Iranian-backed rebels known as Houthis, who have taken over most of northern Yemen. The UAE entered Yemen's war in March 2015 alongside Saudi Arabia to back Yemen's internationally recognized government, which the Houthis had pushed out of the capital, Sanaa. The UAE has largely handled ground operations in the conflict while the Saudis have carried out airstrikes. The ongoing war has resulted in the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with an estimated 24 million people, close to 80 percent of the population, in need of assistance and protection in Yemen, according to the U.N., the World Health Organization (WHO) says some 10,000 people have been killed since the coalition intervened in 2015, but rights groups state the death toll could be five times as high.

Many atrocities have been reported so far, which reveals multiple violations of human rights. Schools and hospitals in the war-torn country have come under frequent attack, threatening the lives of many children. Saudi-led attacks have killed nearly 4,600 out of the 7,000 verified civilians who have died in the war, according to recent figures by the U.N. Human Rights Office. In September, the Saudi-led coalition admitted that mistakes were made in an August airstrike that killed 40 children, an event considered an apparent war crime by the U.N. human rights body. Saudi Arabia's alleged human rights violations are not limited to that country but have expanded beyond its borders, since there is an endless war in Yemen.

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