Yemeni fishermen said Eritrean navy forces intercepted and confiscated seven of their boats on Saturday, before beating them and confiscating their catch.
Yemeni coast guard denies rumors Eritrea has re-occupied Hunaish Islands
Yemen’s government-controlled Red Sea Coast Guard on Sunday denied rumors circulating in the Yemeni press and on social media that the Hunaish Islands have been re-occupied by Eritrean forces.
"There is no truth to the rumors," Col. Abduljabbar Zahzuh, commander of the Red Sea Coast Guard, told Almasdar Online.
The Hunaish Islands, including Hunaish Al-Kubra (Grand Hunaish) and Hunaish Al-Sughra (Small Hunaish), are located near international shipping lanes in the Red Sea, and were occupied by Eritrea in 1995 until international diplomatic arbitration led to the East African nation’s withdrawal in 1998.
Houthis seized control of the islands in early 2015 before they were liberated in December that year.
Fishermen told Almasdar Online that Eritrean navy forces had intercepted and confiscated seven of the eight boats the fishermen were traveling in on Saturday. The navy forces gathered all 57 fishermen on one boat to return to Hunaish, one of the fisherman said, claiming they were first beaten, insulted and had their fish confiscated.
Reports of Eritrean forces harassing Yemeni fishermen in Yemeni territorial waters go back years, despite the presence of the coast guard and elite military forces on the islands. Some fishermen have been held by Eritrean pirates for weeks at a time.
Yemen’s fishermen have issued several appeals to the Yemeni government and the Saudi-led coalition to protect them from Eritrean forces and piracy. The fishermen have also requested the coalition to stop bombing their boats and end restrictions on fishing operations on the coasts of Hunaish.
Editing by Ahlam Mohsen and Casey Coombs