A military spokesman for the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen has warned that all Israeli ships will come under fire just days after a cargo ship with ties to an Israeli businessman was seized as it passed through the Red Sea and hostages were taken.
The spokesman, General Yahya Sarea, warned that Yemeni missiles would strike all types of Israeli ships. He outlined the ships that would be targeted, saying that any ships owned or operated by Israeli companies, along with those that carry the flag of the “Zionist entity” would come under fire.
At the same time, the Yemeni armed forces asked countries around the world to avoid shipping goods or carrying out transactions with these ships and to withdraw any of their citizens who are working as crew members on such vessels. They also instructed them to caution their ships to stay away from Israeli vessels.
Meanwhile, Houthi military official Major General Ali Al-Moshki said: “Israeli ships are legitimate targets for us anywhere… and we will not hesitate to take action.”
Weeks ago, Iran-backed Houthi rebels captured the Galaxy Leader, a cargo ship operated by a Japanese firm that carries the flag of the Bahamas, and took its 25 crew members hostage. None of the crew members were Israeli, but the ship was targeted because it has links to a billionaire Israeli businessman, Abraham “Rami” Ungar. Ungar owns the British company that owns the Galaxy Leader, Ray Car Carriers. The crew members hailed from countries like the Philippines, Ukraine, Mexico, Bulgaria and Romania.
In the incident, Houthi rebels slid down a rope that was hanging out of a helicopter that hovered overhead. U.S. military officials have called the action “a flagrant violation of international law.”
The Houthis said they captured the ship as a form of retaliation against Israel’s war on Hamas, which Hamas set into motion with its savage October 7 attack on southern Israel that left 1,200 people dead and took 240 people as hostages into Gaza.
Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam warned that more is to come, saying the seizure was “only the beginning” and that further maritime attacks would be carried out until Israel ends its campaign in Gaza. He said that Israelis only understand “the language of force.”
Shipping disruptions could occur in the region as a result of the violence
The coastline of Yemen overlooks the narrow Bab al-Mandab Strait. This passage between Djibouti and Yemen situated at the foot of the Red Sea is considered one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, carrying roughly 20 percent of the world’s oil consumption. While much of the Red Sea spans wider than 124 miles, the Bab al-Mandab strait is a chokepoint that is less than 12 miles wide. More than 17,000 ships pass through it every year, which amounts to almost 50 per day.
Speaking to AFP, Torbjorn Soltvedt, who works for risk intelligence company Verisk Maplecroft, said that shipping disruptions in the region at large should be expected.
“If security concerns compel shipping companies to avoid the Bab al-Mandab Strait, the result will be significantly higher costs due to the lack of alternative routes,” he noted.
Some experts believe that Houthi fighters may have decided to attack ships after their efforts to launch missiles and drones into Israel failed.
On several occasions in the last month, U.S warships have intercepted drones and missiles coming from Yemen that were going in the direction of Israel or presenting a threat to American vessels. The navy destroyer USS Carney intercepted a series of drones and land attack cruise missiles launched by Houthis toward the northern part of the Red Sea last month.
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