Yemen's Houthis threaten to escalate maritime attacks in Red Sea

Iran-backed rebel group say they will strike vessels heading to Israel unless aid is allowed into the Gaza Strip

Yemen's Houthis release footage of cargo ship seizure

Yemen's Houthis release footage of cargo ship seizure
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Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels have threatened to attack ships heading to Israel unless aid is allowed into the Gaza Strip, which is being pummelled by Israeli forces.

The Houthis, who control the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, have recently attacked vessels they claim to have direct links to Israel, but their latest threat expands the scope of their targets.

They said they "will prevent the passage of ships heading to the Zionist entity" if humanitarian aid is not allowed into besieged Gaza.

The latest threat comes amid heightened tensions in the Red Sea and surrounding waters following a series of maritime attacks by the Houthis since the start of the Israel-Gaza war on October 7.

Israel-bound vessels "will become a legitimate target for our armed forces", regardless of which flag ships sail under or the nationality of their owners or operators, the Houthis said.

"We warn all ships and companies against dealing with Israeli ports," they added on Saturday.

Last week, the Houthis attacked two ships off the Yemeni coast, including a Bahamas-flagged vessel, claiming they were Israeli owned.

And last month, the group seized Galaxy Leader, an Israeli-linked cargo vessel.

The Houthis said that all "ships linked to Israel or that will transport goods to Israeli ports" are not welcome in the Red Sea, a vital channel for global trade linked to the Suez Canal.

Beyond maritime attacks, the Houthis have launched a series of drone and missile strikes targetting Israel since its bombardment of Gaza started following deadly attacks by Palestinian armed group Hamas.

The militants on October 7 poured over the border into Israel, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping about 240 back into Gaza.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas and has launched a large-scale air and land offensive in Gaza that has killed at least 17,700 people, mostly women and children, the Hamas-run health ministry said.

Israel has also engaged in almost daily clashes with Lebanese armed group Hezbollah, on its northern borders.

The spike in maritime incidents prompted G7 foreign ministers at a meeting earlier this month to urge the Yemeni rebels to cease threats to international shipping and to release the Galaxy Leader.

On Thursday the administration of US President Joe Biden imposed sanctions on 13 people and entities over claims they provided “tens of millions of dollars” in Iran-linked funds to the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Separately, France said Sunday that one of its warships in the Red Sea was targeted by drones coming from Yemen. Both were intercepted and shot down.

Updated: December 10, 2023, 2:22 PM