Houthi leader threatens to strike US ships if Yemen is targeted

Abdulmalik Al Houthi vows greater and more severe actions against Israel

A Houthi fighter on the Galaxy Leader cargo ship in the Red Sea. Reuters
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Houthi leader Abdulmalik Al Houthi said the Iran-backed group will strike US ships should America launch an attack on Yemen.

"Any US attack on us will be met with a similar attack," Al Houthi said in a televised speech on Wednesday.

"We will make American battleships, interests and navigation a target for our missiles, drones and military operations," he added.

Western diplomats had earlier told The National that the US and its allies were considering responding to the Houthis' actions against Israel-linked ships in the Red Sea, including a strike on Yemen. It follows a slew of attacks against shipping that have caused disruptions in the strategic channel.

Al Houthi also threatened "greater" and "more severe actions" against Israel.

"We are doing what we can to achieve what is greater and to take more severe actions against the Zionist enemy," he said.

The group is developing its "military capabilities" he added, describing their actions in the Red Sea as "efficient and influential".

"We are seeking, in these coming days, to develop our military capabilities ... even while we are facing opposition from regional forces to our strikes against the Zionist enemy."

The leader, however, downplayed the impact the attacks have had on commercial shipping, saying that hundreds of ships continue to move safely in the Red Sea, even after six shipping companies, at least, had suspended operations in the region.

"The field is open for the movement of commercial ships in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and Bab Al Mandab strait," Al Houthi said, adding that the group was limiting its strikes to "Israeli or Israeli-linked" vessels.

"We target ships that are either owned or partially owned by the Israelis, or go to the ports of occupied Palestine, bringing supplies to the Zionist enemy."

The Houthi attacks began in response to Israel's war in Gaza.

On Monday, the Pentagon announced the launch of a new coalition that focuses on countering attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea.

The Americans are attempting to "implicate others in the protection of Israeli ships", Al Houthi said.

Yemen's information minister Moammar Eryani told The National earlier that ongoing Houthi attacks could mean "catastrophic repercussions" for the country.

The speech came after UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg met Houthi chief negotiator Mohammed Abdelsalam in Oman on Wednesday.

"The discussion focused on the ongoing efforts to foster progress towards implementing measures to improve living conditions in Yemen, securing a sustainable nationwide ceasefire, and achieving tangible progress towards an inclusive political process under UN auspices," the UN said in a statement.

Updated: December 20, 2023, 3:43 PM