February 24, 2024

The Iranian-backed Houthis continue to threaten shipping in the Red Sea. A message from the group followed the USS Carney, a US naval warship, downing a drone threat on November 29. In addition, a drone came close to the US aircraft carrier the USS Eisenhower. The Houthis also hijacked one ship earlier in November and carried out numerous drone and missile attacks on Israel. They also fired ballistic missiles toward the USS Mason earlier this week.

The Houthis put out a statement from their “foreign minister” in Yemen claiming that the safety of ships in the Red Sea is linked to the war in Gaza.

“The [Houthi] Foreign Affairs Ministry renewed its call to Washington and the rest of the members of the Group of Seven [G7] and the allies of the Zionist enemy to reconsider their definition of the concept of violating international law, as war crimes and genocide are being committed by the Zionist entity against civilians in the Gaza Strip, stressing that what is happening in Gaza represents a true violation of international law and all human values.”

The G7, which represents the world’s largest economies, had called for the Houthis to stop threatening ships. The Houthis have said they will continue to threaten commercial ships they claim are linked to Israel. They have also threatened US warships.

Houthis try to show they haven’t attacked commercial ships in the past

The group’s statement said that despite ten years of war in Yemen in which the Houthi rebels had fought the Yemeni government, shipping in the Red Sea had been safe. The point of that part of the statement was to show that they had not attacked commercial ships in the past. Saudi Arabia backs the government of Yemen and Iran backs the Houthis. However, Iran and Saudi Arabia reconciled earlier this year and there is a ceasefire in Yemen.

The Houthis say they didn’t attack ships in the Red Sea in the past and they divided their fighting from other policies, “one hand builds, one hand fights.” Now they say, in response to their leadership, they will continue to support the “resistance” of Palestinians. The Houthi official slogan is “death to America, death to Israel, curse the Jews,” suggesting that in fact this is not a new policy, but an escalation.

The statement from the Houthis said that the fate of the Galaxy Leader, the ship they hijacked earlier this month, is “linked to ending the Zionist aggression against the Gaza Strip and entry of humanitarian aid, food and fuel.” The Houthis hint that the “safety” of the region is now linked to the war in Gaza, suggesting they could escalate further.