Houthis hit back at UN resolution after major Red Sea attack on US ships

Mohammed Al Houthi calls decision a 'political game' and accuses US of breaking international law

The cargo ship Galaxy Leader, co-owned by an Israeli company, was hijacked by Iran-backed Houthis in the Red Sea on November 20, 2023. Photo: Anadolu
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Yemen's Houthi rebels have warned any US attack on the group will be met with an even greater response, as tensions continued to rise in the Red Sea after the UN adopted a resolution condemning attacks on shipping by the Iran-backed group.

The group's leader Abdel Malek Al Houthi said any US attack would draw a "bigger" response than the recent missile and drone attack on US forces in the Red Sea.

The Houthis will "fight" any direct confrontation, he added.

Earlier on Thursday, the head of the Houthi supreme revolutionary committee, Mohammed Al Houthi, condemned a UN resolution on navigation in the Red Sea, calling it a "political game", and said the US was the country breaking international law.

The UN Security Council on Wednesday adopted Resolution 2722 condemning about 30 attacks on ships in the vital international waterway, demanding an immediate halt to attacks on commercial vessels.

Germany's Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel Institute) said in a report released on Thursday the attacks so far had led to a 1.3 per cent decline in global trade.

The resolution condemned “in the strongest terms” raids in the Red Sea since November 19, “when the Houthis attacked and seized the Galaxy Leader and its crew”, referencing a Japanese-owned, Israel-linked ship with a multinational crew.

Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam condemned the Security Council and wrote on X, formerly Twitter: "Resolution 2722 represents a historic disgrace for an international council concerned, as it claims, with protecting international peace and security".

"We know that the world is governed by the law of the jungle, but after Resolution 2722, the UN Security Council is enshrining the law of the jungle and calling it international legitimacy, ignoring humanitarian laws," he said.

He said the Houthis posed no threat to international navigation in the Red Sea and the resolution was the result of "American deception and well-known western lies".

"The UN Security Council must restore its primary function of protecting oppressed peoples," rather than remain "a platform for America and its destructive projects", he said.

In a separate post, Mr Al Houthi said on X that what he called the “Yemeni armed forces” were acting “within the framework of legitimate defence and that any action they face will have a reaction”.

“We call on the Security Council to immediately release 2.3 million people from the Israeli-American siege in Gaza,” he said.

US considers next steps

The White House said on Wednesday attacks by Houthi militants are “escalatory” and that the US will consult with its partners about the next steps if these attacks continue.

Mr Al Houthi's remarks put the group on a potential collision course with the US and allies who are part of a naval task force conducting Operation Prosperity Guardian, formed on December 18 to protect shipping from the Houthis.

On Wednesday, the Houthis launched 18 drones and four missiles at US forces in the Red Sea, all of which were shot down by the US ships and supporting F-18 Super Hornet aircraft, as well as a British warship.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said the Houthi attacks could not continue or “there will be consequences”, hinting at a possible US direct attack on Houthi targets in Yemen, which happened briefly in 2016 after a Houthi attack on a US warship.

Western rhetoric has also blamed Iran for funding and arming the Houthis, as well as encouraging their actions.

US ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the Security Council on Wednesday that “Iran also has a choice: to continue providing or withhold its support for the Houthis, without which the Houthis would struggle to effectively track and strike vessels through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden”.

Costs to shipping

The Red Sea carries about 12 per cent of global trade with an estimated value of $1 trillion per year. Around 20,000 ships transit the sea annually, carrying around 500,000 containers of goods per day. That figure is down to around 200,000, Germany's IfW Kiel Institute said.

But the number of ships passing through the waterway has dropped sharply since the Houthis began attacks on what they claimed were ships with links to Israel. In many cases, the vessels had no connection to Israel and the effect on shipping has been immediate.

Maersk, one of the largest global shipping companies, carrying about 15 per cent of shipping container trade, said earlier this month it was suspending travel through the Red Sea.

Insurance costs for shipping have jumped, ship operators are paying private security companies to protect vessels and crews or in many cases, are taking a longer route that avoids the Red Sea altogether, taking a 35-day trip around South Africa's Cape of Good Hope, instead of a 25-day journey through the Red Sea, and Suez Canal.

The Houthis have also attacked US warships, firing anti-ship ballistic missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles and volleys of explosive drones at coalition naval vessels in the Red Sea.

In December, US forces took the first direct action against Houthis since 2016, destroying three of their boats that attacked the Maersk Hangzhou, after the boats also fired on a US helicopter. Ten Houthis were killed, in an incident in which armed guards on the commercial ship clashed with the militias after it was struck with an anti-ship ballistic missile.

The Houthis however, are not backing down.

Mr Al Houthi on Thursday demanded that Israel “immediately stop all attacks that hinder life and its continuity in Gaza and undermine rights, freedoms, and regional peace and security”.

Updated: January 11, 2024, 4:03 PM