US-led coalition warns Houthis of ‘consequences’ after Red Sea attacks

The Houthis have argued that their attacks on ships linked to Israel are an act of solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza.

A container ship crosses the Gulf of Suez
A container ship crosses the Gulf of Suez towards the Red Sea before entering the Suez Canal, in El Ain El Sokhna in Suez, east of Cairo, Egypt on April 2017 [File: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters]

A group of countries led by the United States have warned Yemen’s Houthi rebels of “consequences” unless they stop their attacks on Red Sea shipping vessels.

“Let our message now be clear: we call for the immediate end of these illegal attacks and release of unlawfully detained vessels and crews,” said the statement released by the White House on Wednesday.

“The Houthis will bear the responsibility of the consequences should they continue to threaten lives, the global economy and free flow of commerce in the region’s critical waterways”.

The United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Germany and Japan are among the 12 signatories.

The only country in the Middle East to sign the statement was Bahrain, which has a strained relationship with Iran, which is aligned with the Houthis.

The statement comes after several reports that US President Joe Biden’s administration is considering direct strikes on the rebels if the attacks continue.

The Houthis have said that their attacks in the busy waterway are an act of solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza and that they are targeting ships with links to Israel.

The US has sent an aircraft carrier, the USS Dwight D Eisenhower, to the area and earlier announced a coalition of countries to protect movement in the Red Sea, through which 12 percent of global trade passes.

Shipping prices

Earlier on Wednesday, the Houthis claimed responsibility for a previous attack on a merchant vessel in the Red Sea.

“The naval forces of the Yemeni armed forces carried out an operation targeting the ship CMA CGM TAGE which was travelling towards the ports of occupied Palestine,” the Houthis said on X.

The French operator CMA CGM said that its container ship was unharmed and suffered “no incident”.

A CMA CGM spokesperson said the ship was headed for Egypt.

The Houthi attacks in recent weeks have mainly been concentrated on the Bab al-Mandeb Strait.

On Tuesday, Danish shipping giant Maersk extended a suspension of services through the waterway and the Gulf of Aden, south Yemen, “until further notice”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies