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UAE operating illegal tourist trips to Yemen's Socotra

Israeli tourists have been illegally flocking to the Yemeni island of Socotra

The UAE has been accused of running tours including direct flights for tourist groups to the Yemeni island of Socotra without the permission of the Yemeni government.

According to a tweet on Friday by an adviser to the Ministry of Information, Mukhar Al-Rahbi, the island had "become violated by the UAE, which has planned to control it for years."

"Today [the UAE] has become the primary controller in Socotra. Even the tourist delegations take permission to enter Socotra from the UAE," Al-Rahbi said.

"The UAE is marching in groups of foreign tourists in clear encroachment on Yemeni sovereignty," he added.

Sharing the same image on Twitter, Ahmed Al-Zarqa a journalist and the director-general of the Istanbul-based Yemeni news channel Belqees TV explained that "The UAE desecrates the Yemeni island of Socotra and organizes weekly flights to the island directly from Abu Dhabi and Dubai for foreigners."

He also said that the photo of the foreign tourists was taken the week before, having arrived from the UAE.

READ: STC dismiss Socotra port director following UAE arms ship reveal

Al Jazeera reported earlier this month that tourism to the island has increased and quoted a British tour operator who stated that new operators appear to be offering trips to Socotra on a weekly basis, despite the island having almost zero tourist infrastructure.

An article published in March on the Emirati news site, Gulf Today stated that the archipelago, famed for its unique biodiversity "will become a dream destination despite the country's conflict". One local agency, Welcome to Socotra has claimed it has received "hundreds" of requests since flights by Abu Dhabi started that same month.

However, many locals perceive the UAE as having an occupying presence on the island as it maintains military bases. The UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) militias took control of the island's capital Hadibu in June, following clashes with forces of Yemen's internationally-recognised government.

READ: STC rejects president's decision to dismiss security commander

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