UAE "occupation forces" have appointed a new governor on the Yemeni island of Socotra, local sources have claimed.
A coalition commander of the so-called "forces of duty", Abdul Rahman Al-Hajji, has reportedly handed over the administration of the strategically located island to a leader in the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC), named Saleh Ali.
The move comes two months after the expulsion of Governor Ramzi Mahrous who served under the internationally-recognised, Yemeni government-in-exile under President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. The new appointment has not been sanctioned by Hadi's officials.
In May, Mahrous warned of an STC takeover of the island after his headquarters was surrounded by the Emirati-backed forces who managed to seize Socotra after Saudi forces withdrew from the capital Hadibo. Last year, he also announced his intention to seize illegally-built property owned by the UAE.
The STC announced last week that it had again withdrawn from the so-called Riyadh Agreement peace talks with the Saudi-backed Yemeni government. On Monday it was reported that violent clashes erupted between STC militia and Saudi forces near Socotra airport in an attempt to drive the remaining troops from the island in order to consolidate the UAE's efforts to take control.
Amid the recent normalisation between Israel and the UAE, there has been growing speculation that the Israelis are seeking to establish an intelligence outpost on Socotra with UAE support. As early as July, it was also reported by the Yemen Press Agency that a number of Egyptian and Emirati military experts had started to arrive on the island of Mayyun off the western Yemeni coast to arrange for an Israeli military base to be established. Since 2016, Israel's largest base in the Red Sea has been located in Eritrea.
Yesterday, speaking about the developments on the island, the Sheikh of Socotra, Issa Bin Yaqoot, warned that, "Saudi Arabia and the UAE have allowed the Zionist entity to enter Socotra, as part of the occupation process to separate it from Yemen." In addition to the loss of sovereignty, Bin Yaqoot warned that the island is at risk of losing its Yemeni identity and heritage.