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The New Arab Staff

Yemenis protest normalisation on Socotra island amid reports of Emirati-Israeli base

UAE-backed forces have captured control of Socotra island [Twitter]

Date of publication: 20 September, 2020

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A protest against Israeli normalisation erupted in Socotra on Saturday amid reports of an Emirati-Israeli intelligence gathering base on the island.
Yemenis gathered in Socotra island on Saturday to denounced the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council and protest against normalisation with Israel.

The pro-government rally saw locals raise Yemeni flags in the south of the island while chanting pro-Palestinian slogans.

"Palestine is our first cause, no to normalisation with zionists," was among the chants heard at the protest.

A statement by the protesters called for the return of the leadership of the local authority, the extension of state control over all institutions, an end of armed presence on the island, as well as the abolition of all military camps established by non-state actors.

The Emirati-backed southern secessionists, who have garnered control of the archipelago in recent years, responded by firing bullets and blocking roads to disperse the crowds.

The UAE-backed STC took control of Socotra in June after clashes with government forces.

Yemen's internationally-recognised has long accused the UAE of supporting the secessionists to serve Emirati interests in Yemen.

Saturday's protest came after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain formally signed agreements to normalise ties with Israel, despite opposition from all Palestinian factions.

It also comes as reports claimed the UAE and Saudi Arabia are allowing Israel intelligence agents into Yemen, according to a Yemeni tribal leader.

Issa Salem bin Yaqut, a chief of tribes in Socotra, warned the countries against violating Yemen's sovereignty on the island.

Bin Yaqut also accused the UAE of "destroying the charming and rare environmental landmarks on Socotra Island" and called for their explusion.

According to a seperate report, the alleged move aims at establishing an Israeli-Emirati intelligence-gathering base on the island to "monitor Iran, China and Pakistan".

"This Israeli-Emirati spy base aims at monitoring the Iranian activities in the Gulf of Aden and curbing Tehran's relationship with Houthi rebels," Ibrahim Fraihat, a professor of international conflict resolution at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, was quoted by Anadolu Agency as saying.

The UAE has deployed hundreds of troops to the strategic island since May 2018, leading to a rift with the Yemeni government which rejects the deployment.

"The creation of this base is an additional indicator that the Emirati-Israeli deal was meant for forging a solid alliance between the two countries, not just normalising relations," Fraihat said.

The UAE has allegedly been seeking to annex the island due to its strategic location. 

Read also: Will UAE-Israel deal draw Tel Aviv into Yemen's war?

Following the UAE-Israel normalisation deal earlier in the month, US website SouthFront, which specialises in military and strategic research, reported the arrival of an Emirati-Israeli delegation to the island.

The report said the aim of the visit was to establish strategic cooperation in the Yemeni island.

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