By Carla Babb, VOA
PENTAGON- A U.S. defense official Tuesday urged an Iranian ship purportedly carrying aid to Yemen to change course and head to Djibouti, where the United Nations is overseeing humanitarian deliveries.
The U.S. military is tracking the Iran Shahed vessel after Tehran said it would send warships to escort it to Yemen, where Tehran-backed Houthi rebels are fighting pro-government forces supported by Saudi Arabia.
“If the Iranians are planning some sort of stunt in the region, then they know as well as we do that it will be unhelpful and in fact could potentially threaten the cease-fire that’s been so painstakingly brought about,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren told reporters Tuesday.
Warren would not comment on what the U.S. would do should the Iranian ship try to dock at a Yemeni port. The ship has moved through the Strait of Hormuz and is now reported to be in the Gulf of Oman.
Tehran said Iran Shahed is carrying humanitarian aid, but Warren countered that if that's is the case, the ship needs to go to the U.N. aid distribution center in Djibouti, not to Yemen.
“We call on Iranians to do the right thing here and deliver their humanitarian aid in accordance with U.N. protocols,” he said.
Warren said Iran already “provoked tensions” several weeks ago when it sent a convoy toward Yemen. Iran said that convoy was carrying humanitarian aid, but the U.S. suspected it was carrying weapons.
The USS Roosevelt aircraft carrier and a guided missile cruiser monitored the Iranian convoy until it reversed its path and headed back to Iran.
Source: Radio Zamaneh
The Saudi-led coalition's attack on an ammunition depot near Sanaa killed 69 people on Tuesday March 12.
Cartoon by Ali Jahanshahi, Iranian daily Shargh
Yemeni health officials told AFP that the attack was carried out on the outskirts of the capital. They added that most of the dead are civilians and 250 others were wounded in the attack.
Another five people were killed on Monday in a separate attack on the depot.
Saudi Arabia had previously announced, at a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, that it agreed to a five-day ceasefire to allow for humanitarian aid to be provided to Yemeni civilians.
The ceasefire is set to start on the evening of May 12.
The Saudi-led coalition forces have been bombing Yemen since March 26 to stop the advance of the Houthis, who have taken control of large parts of the country.
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