Yemen’s Houthi rebels say any US action would be a ‘declaration of war’

The warning comes hours after a US Navy warship sailing near Bab El Mandeb Strait shot down a drone launched from Yemen

Houthi navy commanders on the Galaxy Leader three days after the Houthis seized it in the Red Sea off the coast of Hodeidah, Yemen. EPA
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Yemen’s Houthi rebels have said that any US measures against the group would be considered as a declaration of war, as fears widen that Israel’s war on Gaza has hindered US and UN efforts towards a lasting peace deal in Yemen.

In a televised speech on Yemen’s Independence Day on Thursday, the head of the Supreme Political Council of the Houthi group, Mahdi Al Mashat, said that "any American escalation will not dissuade us from our principled position on the Palestinian issue, and that any measure that harms the interests of our people will be tantamount to a declaration of war and will be dealt with on this basis".

"I call on Washington to make fundamental adjustments in its hostile behaviour towards Yemen, as it does not serve peace in the region, and I warn it against any persistence or escalation,” he added.

Mr Al Mashat’s comments came just hours after a US Navy warship sailing near the Bab El Mandeb Strait shot down a drone launched from Yemen, the US military said, the latest in a string of threats from Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

US Central Command said the USS Carney, a navy destroyer, downed the drone – an Iranian-made KAS-04 – which was launched from a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen and was heading towards the warship.

The incident is the latest in a series of attacks in Middle East waters since Israel launched a war on Gaza after a Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

On November 19, Houthis seized the Galaxy Leader car carrier, which was taken to the Yemeni port of Hodeidah, the vessel's owner said.

Yemen's Houthis release footage of cargo ship seizure

Yemen's Houthis release footage of cargo ship seizure

Both vessels had ownership links to Israeli business magnates, according to shipping records.

The Philippines confirmed on Wednesday that 17 Filipino seafarers – part of the 25-man crew aboard the Galaxy Leader – were taken hostage.

The Philippines’ President Ferdinand Marcos Jr at the last minute cancelled his attendance at the United Nations’ climate change summit on Thursday, a few hours before his flight to Dubai.

“In light of important developments in the hostage situation involving 17 Filipino seafarers in the Red Sea, I have made the decision not to attend Cop28 in Dubai tomorrow,” Mr Marcos said in a post on X.

Mr Marcos confirmed he will be convening a meeting to facilitate the dispatch of a high-level delegation to Iran’s capital Tehran to negotiate the release of the 17 Filipino seamen.

The latest incidents come as UN and US envoys to Yemen attempt yet again to restart negotiation efforts on a lasting peace deal in Yemen.

UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg continued his peace efforts this week in Muscat, Oman, when he met with senior Omani officials as well as with the Yemeni Houthis.

“The Special Envoy also met with Mohamed Abdel Salam, Ansar Allah’s chief negotiator, to discuss opportunities to foster co-operation between Yemeni stakeholders to address urgent economic issues, to establish a sustainable nationwide ceasefire, and resume an inclusive political process under the auspices of the United Nations,” Mr Grundberg’s office said.

Previous negotiating rounds this year, sponsored by the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross, succeeded in releasing two batches of prisoners and detainees, including 1,000 in the first batch and 900 in the second.

The internationally recognised Yemeni government has consistently said it seeks to release all detainees according to the "all for all" deal, accusing the Houthi rebels of deliberately trying to undermine the negotiations.

Updated: November 30, 2023, 12:56 PM