Yemen’s Houthi militia has stated it plans more attacks on United States and British warships.
The Iran-aligned group’s statement, released on Wednesday, said all US and British warships participating in “aggression” against Yemen are targets. The statement stoked concern over the simmering tensions in the region as well as increased disruption to world trade.
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The Houthis, who control the most populous parts of Yemen, have launched drones and missiles at shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November 19. The group said the attacks are a response to Israel’s military operations in Gaza.
The US and Britain have struck back at Houthi targets in Yemen as they patrol the Red Sea in a naval coalition that has swapped numerous attacks with the Yemeni group.
On Tuesday, the Houthis fired missiles at the US warship USS Gravely. US Central Command said its forces had shot down an antiship cruise missile.
On Wednesday, the US said its forces destroyed a surface-to-air missile which was prepared to launch.
“U.S. forces identified the missile in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and determined that it presented an imminent threat to U.S. aircraft,” Central Command said.
The Houthi attacks have added a global economic element to the turmoil emanating from the war in Gaza.
Several shipping companies have suspended transits through the Red Sea, which is accessed from the Gulf of Aden, instead taking much longer and costlier journeys around Africa to avoid being attacked.
The situation has sent shipping and insurance costs soaring, raising fears of a renewed cost-of-living crisis.
In it for the long haul
The Houthis said they will persist with their military operations until a ceasefire is agreed in the Gaza Strip and food and medicine are allowed into the enclave to ease a humanitarian crisis. They insist they are prepared to dig in for the long haul.
On Tuesday, Mohamed al-Atifi, commander of the Houthi forces, said: “We are prepared for a long-term confrontation with the forces of tyranny. The Americans, the British and those who coordinated with them must realise the power of the sovereign Yemeni decision and that there is no debate or dispute over it.”
In response to the attacks, the US government redesignated the militia as “specially designated global terrorists”, and amid the threat of extended shipping disruptions, the European Union’s foreign minister Josep Borrell said on Wednesday that the bloc aims to launch its own Red Sea naval mission by the middle of February.
The 26-member union refused to join the US coalition established in December due to concerns of some states about operating under Washington’s control.
Borrell said defence ministers should decide on Wednesday, a day ahead of a European Council meeting, on which country will lead the effort, as well as outlining where the mission would be headquartered, who would participate and with what assets.