People tour the deck of the Galaxy Leader commercial ship, seized by Yemen's Houthis last month, off the coast of al-Salif, Yemen December 5, 2023.

Houthis Issue Threat Against Any Naval Intervention In Red Sea

Wednesday, 12/13/2023

Yemen’s Houthis fired two missiles that missed a tanker carrying jet fuel and headed to the Suez Canal, a US official was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

A US Navy warship also shot down a suspected Houthi drone flying in its direction during the same incident, the official said. These incidents came after repeated threats issued by Houthi officials in the past two days.

Earlier on Wednesday, a Houthi official said his group possesses “formidable leverage” against countries that participate in a naval coalition in the Red Sea.

Mohammed Al Bukhaiti issued the threat after news emerged that the United States was discussing a naval coalition with 12 countries to protect shipping in the Red Sea. The Houthi official was speaking to Sama News, a Palestinian outlet.

Iran-backed Houthis have launched numerous attacks against commercial vessels in the strategically vital shipping lanes in retaliation for Israel’s military operation in Gaza.

On Tuesday, a senior official from Yemen's Houthis warned cargo ships in the Red Sea to avoid traveling toward Israel, after the group claimed an attack on a commercial tanker earlier in the day.

The Houthis earlier said they hit a Norwegian commercial tanker with a missile in their latest protest to Israel's bombardment of Gaza, underlining the risks of a conflict that has shaken the Middle East.

Al Arabiya has reported that according to a Pentagon official, the Biden administration is in talks with 12 allied countries to form a task force to secure the passage of commercial vessels in the Red Sea.

The Galaxy Leader cargo ship is escorted by Houthi boats in the Red Sea in this photo released November 20, 2023.

However, the Houthis mostly attack the vessels with missiles and drones and navies trying to protect the shipping lanes need to be able to shoot down every incoming projectile. This would not fully secure the right of safe passage, as long as Houthis are not deterred to seize their attacks.

Biden administration critics have argued for retaliation against Houthis and other Iranian backed militia forces in the region. Militant groups in Syria and Iraq have launched around 90 attacks so far against US bases, with a few US retaliatory strikes.

The US administration, however, seems to be relying more on diplomatic contacts to prevent the attacks. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shiaa al-Sudani, condemning a recent attack on the US embassy in Baghdad, as well as the series of attacks on American personnel in Iraq and Syria.

An announcement by the State Department said, “The Secretary noted that the attacks are being carried out by militias who are acting with the support of Iran and undermining Iraq’s sovereignty and independence. They committed to remain in close contact over the coming days and weeks.”

The attacks in the Red Sea have overshadowed rocket and drone attacks against US forces. In addition to avoid heading toward Israel, which the Houthis referred to as "occupied Palestine", ships that pass Yemen should keep radios turned on, and quickly respond to Houthi attempts at communication, Mohamed Ali al-Houthi, head of Yemen's Houthi supreme revolutionary committee, said in a message on the X social media platform.

Al-Houthi also warned cargo ships against "falsifying their identity" or raising flags different from the country belonging to cargo ship owner.

The Iran-backed group attacked the tanker, the STRINDA, because it was delivering crude oil to an Israeli terminal and after its crew ignored all warnings, Houthi military spokesperson Yehia Sarea had previously said in a statement.

The Houthis have waded into the Israel-Hamas conflict - which has spread around the region - attacking vessels in vital shipping lanes and firing drones and missiles at Israel more than 1,000 miles from their seat of power in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.

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