Houthi attack on Israel and Red Sea shipping sparks fear of repercussion among Yemenis

A recent report states that in Yemen’s Houthi-controlled capital, signs of support for the Palestinian cause can be seen everywhere, with cars displaying Palestinian flags and photos of Hamas spokesman Abu Obaida, as well as slogans showing solidarity with the Palestinian people. The Houthi movement, which currently holds control over northern and western Yemen, has also demonstrated its support through launching missile and drone attacks against commercial ships linked to Israel or Israelis. Since the beginning of the war in the Gaza Strip, the Houthis have targeted eight ships that they claim are connected to Israeli businesses or companies. A study by Yemen’s Abaad Studies and Research Center indicated that these actions would limit shipping movements and contribute to rising costs and economic challenges in the region. Expert opinions suggest that the Houthis aim to position themselves as adversaries to the US and Israel and gain popularity and support for Iran. However, these actions are expected to have negative political and economic consequences for the country and its citizens. The international community has condemned the Houthi attacks on commercial ships, calling on the group to cease its actions and release the Israeli-linked cargo ship that it seized. The US has proposed establishing a naval task force to safeguard commercial ships in the region, an endeavor that has been met with resistance from the Houthis. The group has threatened to expand its operations against countries supporting Israel and warned against interfering with its military activities. The recent targeting of an Israeli-owned cargo ship has garnered public support for the Houthis in Yemen, but concerns about potential economic crises, declining ship traffic, and retaliatory military strikes are resulting in a gradual decline in support for the group. This tactic may contribute to Yemenis withdrawing their endorsement of the Houthis, particularly in light of the economic repercussions that this recent approach may engender. Public sentiment in Yemen and the greater Arab world regarding the Houthi movement seems to be shifting in response to these developments.