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19 Dec, 2023 21:12

Houthis not deterred by US-led armada

The Yemeni group has vowed to continue targeting “Israel-linked” ships
Houthis not deterred by US-led armada

The American-led multinational fleet off the coast of Yemen will not stop the country's Houthi armed groups from operations in support of Palestine, a spokesman announced on Tuesday.

Drone and missile attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea have already driven up insurance rates and led to several major carriers rerouting traffic around Africa at the cost of millions of dollars. The group has attacked vessels it claims are connected to Israel as a show of support for Palestinians in Gaza.

“Even if America succeeds in mobilizing the entire world, our military operations will not stop unless the genocidal crimes in Gaza stop… no matter the sacrifices it costs us,” Houthi spokesman Mohammed al-Bukhaiti said on X (formerly Twitter).

“Whoever seeks to expand the conflict must bear the consequences of his actions,” al-Bukhaiti added. “The American-formed coalition is to protect Israel and militarize the sea without any justification, and will not stop Yemen from continuing its legitimate operations in support of Gaza.”

The group, which de facto runs Yemen, announced its support for the Palestinian cause at the end of October. On Monday, the US said it would assemble a naval task force to ensure “freedom of navigation” through the Red Sea in an operation dubbed ‘Prosperity Guardian.’

Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles, Spain, and the UK will also participate in the operation, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Monday.

In an English-language post on Tuesday, al-Bukhaiti described the US-led force as “the Coalition of Shame” and its support for Israel “a stain on its history” that will lead to “expanding the scope of the conflict and increasing the risks to shipping lines.”

A top Houthi official and negotiator, Mohammed Abdulsalam, told Reuters that the US-led mission was “essentially unnecessary” because the waters off Yemen were safe except for ships linked to – or headed for – Israel.

Yemen is strategically located on the north side of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. About 12% of the world’s commercial shipping traffic transits through the area. 

So far, five major international shipping companies – including CMA CGN, Hapag-Lloyd, Maersk, and the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) – have cited the spate of attacks to steer their ships away from the area. On Monday, Evergreen Cargo said it would no longer carry Israeli goods through the Red Sea. The UK oil giant BP has likewise rerouted its tankers around the Cape of Good Hope instead.