The United Arab Emirates (UAE), a key party to the Saudi-led coalition waging war on Yemen, has reportedly set up telecommunications towers on the strategic island of Socotra and plans to build a military facility there.
The Doha-based Al Jazeera broadcaster reported on Monday that two independent members of the parliament in Yemen had informed former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi of the Emirati telecommunications towers and Abu Dhabi’s intention to erect a military base on the Socotra Island.
Separately, Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported that the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, frequently called al-Islah political party, and some lawmakers had sent a letter to Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, the prime minister of Hadi’s self-proclaimed administration, warning him of the UAE’s actions in the region.
They said some Emirati army officers had traveled to Socotra without passports or visas, adding that the UAE had set up eight transmitter towers and begun building two military camps there.
Weeks after a controversial normalization deal between the UAE and Israel, it was reported that a delegation of Israeli and Emirati intelligence agents had visited Socotra and examined various locations for establishing spy bases.
Issa Salem bin Yaqut, the chief of tribes in Socotra, said the UAE and Saudi Arabia have let Israel onto the Yemeni island.
Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have been “destroying the charming and rare environmental landmarks on Socotra Island and establishing camps amid a terrible international silence,” he stressed.
Home to some 60,000 people, Socotra overlooks the Bab al-Mandab Strait, a main shipping route that connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea. It has a unique ecosystem and been listed by UNESCO as a world natural heritage site.
Socotra has been a source of tension between the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which have been vying for control of the resource-rich island.
Back in June, the UAE-backed separatists of the so-called Southern Transitional Council (STC) took control over Socotra in a move described by the Hadi regime at the time as a “coup.”
The occupation of Socotra came two months after the UAE-backed separatists broke with once-allied Saudi-sponsored pro-Hadi militants in Yemen, saying they will establish a self-ruled administration in the war-torn country’s southern regions.
The infighting has dealt a blow to the Riyadh-led military coalition, which has been engaged in a military campaign against Yemen since March 2015 with the aim of reinstalling Hadi in Sana’a.
The Western-sponsored bombing campaign has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis and plunged the impoverished state into what the UN says is the world's worst humanitarian crisis.