Houthis warn Israel-bound ships: 'you will be attacked'

Houthis warn Israel-bound ships: 'you will be attacked'
Yemen's Houthi rebel group have vowed to continue targeting cargo ships travelling to Israel, after a flurry of rocket attacks in past days in the Red Sea.
3 min read
13 December, 2023
The Houthis successfully seized an Israeli-linked ship last month and have attacked others with missiles and drones [Getty]

A senior leader from Yemen's Houthi rebel group on Tuesday warned cargo ships in the Red Sea to avoid traveling toward Israeli ports, as more missiles were fired by the group over the past 48 hours.

To avoid heading toward Israel, ships that pass Yemen should keep radios turned on, and quickly respond to Houthi attempts at communication, Mohamed Ali Al-Houthi, senior member of the "Supreme Political Council" said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Al-Houthi also warned cargo ships against "falsifying their identity" or raising flags different from the country belonging to the cargo ship owner.

The Houthis have previously seized a ship in the Red Sea owned by an Israeli businessman, saying this was to protest against Israel's brutal attack on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The group, which controls the Yemeni capital Sanaa, and is backed by Iran, has attacked vessels in vital shipping lanes and fired drones and missiles at Israeli cities more than 1,000 miles away.

Some of its rockets have landed near Israel’s southern Red Sea resort town of Eilat.

The Israeli navy on Tuesday said it has sent one of its four Sa'ar 6-class corvette ships to the Red Sea in response to the attacks.

It said the rest are now operational for use in Gaza, where more than 18,600 people - mostly women and children - have been killed in Israel’s bombardment.

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Latest attacks

On Wednesday morning, two missiles fired by Houthi rebels reportedly missed a commercial tanker loaded with Indian-manufactured jet fuel near the strategic Bab al-Mandeb Strait, which connects the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, according to a US official.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a US warship also shot down a suspected Houthi drone flying in the tanker's direction during the incident. No one was hurt in the attack, the official added.

Yesterday on Tuesday, the Houthis hit a Norwegian commercial tanker , the STRINDA, with a missile. Houthi military spokesperson Yehia Sarea claime in a statement that it was delivering crude oil to an Israeli terminal and that its crew had ignored all warnings.

US says peace talks at risk

Israel's biggest ally, the United States, has warned the Houthis that a peace plan for Yemen negotiated with the Saudis was at risk of failing if attacks on commercial ships continue, The Guardian reported Tuesday, citing US diplomats.

The US had said earlier this month that it was in talks with allies to create a multi-national maritime task force to patrol the waters and protect shipping.

The Houthis have been locked in a devastating conflict with a Saudi-led military coalition since 2015 when the group completely overran Sanaa. Hundreds of thousands have been killed in the war, and the country – already the poorest in the region – has witnessed one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

Yemen’s internationally-recognised government was forced into exile, relocating to the southern coastal city of Aden. South Yemeni separatist forces are calling for partition.

Talks between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia kicked off earlier this year and have resulted in some gains, partially thanks to a Chinese-brokered Saudi-Iranian détente in March, leading to significant calm in Yemen.

A truce that took effect in April 2022 expired in early October of that same year, though fighting has not picked up considerably since then.

The Saudi-Houthi peace plan Washington has was referring to was handed to the UN peace envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, but its provisions have not been made public.

(Agencies contributed to this report)