Iranian warships to escort Yemen-bound cargo ship

Iranian warships will accompany a cargo ship bound for the Yemeni port of Hodaida, which is held by Iran-allied Houthi fighters, a naval commander was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA on Tuesday.

The Iran-flagged Iran Shahed cargo ship set sail on Monday and could be intercepted by Saudi-led coalition forces.

The Saudi-led coalition has accused Iran of arming the Houthis. Their naval forces have imposed inspections on all ships trying to enter Yemeni ports – looking for weapons bound for Houthi fighters.

Last month, coalition jets bombed the runway at Sanaa airport to prevent an Iranian cargo plane from landing.

“The 34th fleet, which is currently in the Gulf of Aden, has special responsibility to protect the Iranian humanitarian aid ship,” Admiral Hossein Azad said, referring to a destroyer and support vessel patrolling international waters off Yemen.

A five-day ceasefire in Yemen’s civil war is set to take effect at 11 p.m. (2000 GMT) to allow food and medicine into the country, which aid groups warn faces a humanitarian catastrophe.

Tehran says it is sending only humanitarian aid to Yemen.

The Iran Shahed vessel was sailing away from Iran’s coast into the Gulf of Oman at 1334 GMT, ship tracking data on Reuters showed.

Iran’s Fars news agency reported separately that seven activists from the United States and Europe, including from Germany, were on board the ship.

The vessel’s Tehran-based owner Valfajr Shipping, which was listed on shipping databases, could not be immediately reached for comment.

The development comes after Iran last week released a Marshall-Islands flagged container ship and its international crew which were seized last month in one of the world’s major oil shipping lanes.

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