Houthis vow to continue attacks on Red Sea shipping

Senior Houthi official Mohammed Al-Bukaiti issued a statement Dec. 19 saying the Yemeni armed movement would not stop its military operations in the Red Sea unless Israel stops what he referred to as "genocide crimes" in Gaza and allows humanitarian aid to enter the Strip. The move comes despite the US announcement of a new naval coalition to counter the attacks.

The Houthis, backed by Iran, have launched over a dozen attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea in a show of support for Gaza since Israel's bombardment began in October. A diverse range of drones and ballistic missiles have been deployed to attack vessels in the Bab al-Mandab Strait, also known as the Gate of Tears, which separates Eritrea and Djibouti on one side from Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula.

While the Houthis have launched drones and missiles at Israel itself, the maritime attacks began in November when the Houthis seized the Galaxy Leader, an Israeli-linked cargo ship with multi-national connections. The ship is still being held in the port of Hodeidah in Yemen. Despite the Houthis' assertion that they were attacking Israeli-linked vessels, a range of commercial ships have also been attacked in the strait.

Since then, Houthis have targeted over a dozen ships in the area, which is one of the most important trade routes in the world, particularly for oil. Alternative routes would add an extra 3,500 nautical miles to the voyage. Shipping firms have already started to pull their vessels from the Red Sea route. Oil giant BP was te first to halt all shipments through the Red Sea.

On Dec. 15, the German-owned Al Jasrah cargo ship caught fire in the strait after being hit by projectiles launched from Yemen. On Dec. 18, Houthis attacked the Panama-flagged MSC Clara and the Norwegian-owned Swan Atlantic. The UK Maritime Trade Operations monitor issued multiple reports this week relating to incidents in the region, with one vessel being approached by a craft with several armed personnel onboard.

The US announced Dec. 18 that it would launch Operation Prosperity Guardian, a multi-national naval coalition which aims to "jointly address security challenges in the southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, with the goal of ensuring freedom of navigation for all countries and bolstering regional security and prosperity."

From Jurist. Dec. 19. Used with permission.

The closing of the Red Sea to shipping has obvious implications for the price of oil and the ongoing global food and energy crisis.

See our last reports on the Red Sea attacks, the Bab al-Mandab, and the role of the Houthis in the Great Power game.