Sanaa: The Iran-backed Houthi militia rejected a joint statement issued by 12 Western nations warning the rebels against attacking commercial shipping in the Red Sea, and vowed to continue targeting “Israel-linked” vessels until the war in Gaza stopped.
In a statement on Thursday, Houthi spokesperson Dhaifallah al-Shami said that it is “a moral failure and a miserable attempt to cover up the crimes of Israel”, considering “America and Western countries are supporting Israel in committing more genocides against the Palestinian people”, reports Xinhua news agency.
He stressed that the armed group would continue attacking what it called “Israel-linked commercial ships” until Israel ends its offensive in the Hamas-control enclave.
Since November 2023, the militia have carried out attacks on commercial shipping in the region more than 20 times after it declared support for Hamas in the militant group’s ongoing war with Israe.
The Houthis have used missiles, drones, fast boats and helicopters to carry out the attacks and have often claimed that the targeted ships were linked to Israel.
In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, the group of 12 nations — Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, the UK and the US — issued the formal warning to the Houthis and called the attack in the Red Sea “illegal, unacceptable, and profoundly destabilising”.
They said there was “no lawful justification for intentionally targeting civilian shipping and naval vessels”, adding if the attacks continued then the Houthis would “bear the consequences”, reports the BBC.
The nations also called for an “immediate end” to the attacks which, they said, posed a “direct threat to freedom of navigation” in the critical waterway through which almost 15 per cent of global trade passes.
According to the International Chamber of Shipping, 20 per cent of the world’s container ships are currently avoiding the Red Sea and steaming around southern Africa as a result of the attacks.
The Houthis control much of northern Yemen, including capital Sanaa and the strategic Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, where the group has held the Galaxy Leader, a Japanese-operated cargo ship linked to an Israeli company, and its crew, since November 19, 2023.
The US along with other Western countries formed last week a multinational maritime coalition to secure the ships transiting the Red Sea from the Houthi attacks.
US naval forces responded to a distress call from a merchant boat in the Red Sea reporting being under a Houthi attack, sinking three Houthi boats, and killing its 10 fighters.