Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi militia has announced its intention to persist in targeting United States and British warships in the Red Sea. The group fired multiple missiles at the USS Gravely, a US destroyer, triggering a swift response from the US military, which reported the successful interception of a Houthi missile on January 30. These incidents mark the latest in a series of attacks that have raised concerns about potential disruptions to global trade.
The Houthi rebels, identified as part of the anti-Western and anti-Israel “axis of resistance” supported by Iran, have claimed responsibility for over 30 attacks on commercial and naval vessels since November 19, according to the Pentagon. Their actions are framed as expressions of solidarity with Palestinians and protests against the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict in the Gaza Strip.
The Red Sea, a vital route handling approximately 12% of global maritime trade, has witnessed a surge in tensions, prompting some shipping companies to reroute vessels to avoid the region altogether. This has led to increased shipping and insurance costs, raising fears of a renewed cost-of-living crisis and underlining the economic impact of the conflict.
In response to the Houthi attacks, the US and Britain have conducted joint strikes against Houthi missile sites, with the US also undertaking unilateral actions. Seeking to apply diplomatic and financial pressure, the US is pushing to redesignate the Houthis as a “terrorist” group. Simultaneously, the European Union, cautious about operating under US control, plans to launch its own Red Sea naval mission by mid-February.
The conflict’s repercussions extend beyond the Red Sea, with tensions escalating along the Israel-Lebanon border and Iraqi-armed groups attacking US forces in Iraq. Furthermore, a stranded livestock ship, initially bound for Israel, has become a focal point of concern. The vessel, carrying around 14,000 sheep and 2,000 cattle, diverted its course in mid-January due to the threat of Houthi attacks. The Australian government, in response to the potential danger, ordered the ship home, leaving the animals in limbo. Options include discharging them in Australia, triggering mandatory quarantine, or embarking on a month-long journey around Africa to reach Israel while avoiding the Red Sea.
The Houthis remain steadfast in their commitment to military operations until a ceasefire is brokered in the Gaza Strip, coupled with the unhindered delivery of food and medicine to ease the humanitarian crisis. Mohamed al-Atifi, commander of the Houthi forces, emphasized their preparedness for a prolonged confrontation, urging recognition of Yemen’s sovereign decision.