The Houthi group denied on Thursday its use of Hodeida port for military purposes, while a local official at the internationally-recognized government said the rebels had received modern eavesdropping and jamming devices from Iran via the Red Sea port.
The "false allegations," by the Saudi-led coalition spokesman on using the port for military purposes, aim to "justify violations committed by the coalition in the form of persistent airstrikes, blockade on Yemeni ports and hindering the entry of supplies and humanitarian needs," the Houthi-run Red Sea ports corporation said in a statement.
The latest of such violations was the "prevention of 13 oil-loaded tankers to enter Hodeida port .. although they were granted entry permissions and inspected by the United Nations," the statement added.
The coalition's accusations come despite the presence of the UN team monitoring the Stockholm Agreement, and the UNDP and WFP staff working at the port, it argued. This "is clear accusation against the UN team."
The coalition states are "fully responsible for any attempt of directly targeting the Hodeida port, by strikes or tightened blockade, under baseless pretexts and claims," the statement read.
Houthi defense comes as the Hodeida government-appointed deputy governor said the rebels had received modern eavesdropping and jamming devices from Iran via the port.
The "shipment arrived on chartered vessels, the pieces were assembled then in a site near populated areas inside the city, and [devices] have been already in use," Waleed al-Qodaimi added in remarks to the Saudi Asharq Al-awsat.
Hodeida is now "a focal point for the militias to receive all parts of modern devices and weapons, before being assembled in residential areas and then effectively used against fronts.
"Intelligence received from Hodeida affirm that the eavesdropping and jamming network is operated by Iranian experts living in the city for years," Qodaimi claimed.
Houthis mount eavesdropping devices on camouflaged vehicles driven in the nearby of key fronts to tap telephone calls, the government official said, warning fellows against the use of mobile phones and calling on the "legitimate" authorities to inaugurate a separate telecom company.
The Red Sea city of Hodeida and its ports have been under Houthi control since late 2014, while Yemeni joint forces loyal to legitimate government and Arab coalition have massed at the city's fringes since last November seeking to retake the strategic port.
The Arab coalition has repeatedly accused the Houthis of using Hodeida port to smuggle Iranian weapons including ballistic missiles.
Hodeida port sees the inflow of some 70 percent of commercial and relief supplies to the war-torn Arab Peninsula country.
Yemen has been racked by an armed conflict that broke out after the Iranian-backed Houthis had ousted the internationally-recognized government late in 2014.
The conflict escalated after a Saudi-led coalition intervened militarily in the country in March 2015 to reinstate the government of President Hadi in the rebel-held Sana'a.