Saudi-Led Coalition Says It Evacuated Crew Member of Iranian Ship

CAIRO, June 4 (Reuters) – The Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen said on Tuesday it evacuated a crew member for medical reasons from a “suspect” Iranian ship northwest of Yemen’s Hodeidah port after Saudi Arabia received a request for help from Iran.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are arch-adversaries in the Middle East, backing opposite sides in several regional wars including in Yemen where the coalition has been battling the Iran-aligned Houthi movement for four years.

A coalition statement said the Iranian crew member was transported by Medivac helicopter from the Iranian vessel Savis to a military hospital in the Saudi city of Jizan along the border with Yemen.

The crew member was “subjected to a serious injury and his condition deteriorated on board the ship” which was 95 nautical miles northwest of the Red Sea port, the statement quoted coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki as saying without specifying the cause of the injury.

He said the kingdom had received the request from the Iranian charge d’affaires in the Iranian delegation to the United Nations.

Malki said the assistance was provided “despite the threat represented by this suspect vessel…the hostile acts it carries out against coalition forces and the interests of the Yemeni people and its continued threats to maritime lanes and global trade on the Red Sea”.

Iranian officials were not immediately available for comment.

In early May, Saudi Arabia’s coast guard towed an Iranian oil tanker with engine trouble off the coast of Jeddah in the Red Sea.

The Western-backed Sunni Muslim coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognised government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi which was ousted from power in the capital Sanaa by the Houthis in late 2014.

Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of supplying the Houthis with weapons, including drones and missiles that have been launched at Saudi cities. The group and Tehran deny the charges.

(Reporting by Nayera Abdallah, Editing by William Maclean)