Houthis Threaten to Try to Attack Ships in Mediterranean Sea

Attacks Have Effectively Closed the Southern Red Sea to Most Western Ships
Red Sea map

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The Houthi group based in Yemen threatened to start trying to attack ships in the eastern Mediterranean as it steps up a campaign of anti-Israeli assaults.

The Iran-backed militia has made similar threats before but, although it has regularly hit vessels in the southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November with drones and missiles, it has shown little evidence it can do so beyond those waters.

Its attacks are ostensibly in support of Palestinians and against Israel as its war against Hamas in Gaza continues.

The comments about the eastern Mediterranean — which is roughly 1,180 miles from Yemen — were made in a speech May 3 by Yahya Saree, a Houthi spokesman.

Red Sea map

He warned Israel against attacking the southern Gazan city of Rafah and added that 40 of the group’s members had been killed in U.S. and U.K. strikes on Houthi positions, which began in January.

The Houthis have threatened vessels linked to Israel, the U.S. and the U.K. They’ve effectively closed the southern Red Sea to most Western ships, forcing them to avoid the Suez Canal and instead go around southern Africa when traveling between Asia and Europe.

That’s adding days and plenty in the way of fuel and freight costs onto journeys.

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The American and British airstrikes have degraded the Houthis’ capabilities, but they’re still able to target ships. Shipping and freight executives increasingly think the Red Sea will remain too dangerous for many more months, if not the rest of the year.

The Houthis receive military training and intelligence and radar support from Iran, which is crucial when targeting moving objects such as ships.

While the Houthis have started to attack vessels further away from Yemen, including one in the Arabian sea about 600 kilometers from the country last week, almost all their successful strikes have been over shorter distances.