Houthis consider reevaluating Red Sea attacks if Israeli ‘aggression’ ceases

Yemen’s Houthis stated on Tuesday that they would only reconsider their missile and drone attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea once Israel ends its “aggression” in the Gaza Strip.

When asked if they would stop the attacks if a ceasefire deal is reached, Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdulsalam told Reuters that the situation would be reassessed if the “siege” of Gaza was lifted and humanitarian aid could freely enter.

“There will be no halt to any operations that support the Palestinian people unless the Israeli aggression on Gaza and the siege stop,” he said.

Shipping risks have increased due to repeated Houthi strikes in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab Strait since November, which they describe as acts of solidarity with Palestinians against Israel in the Gaza war.

People stand on the beach as the ‘Galaxy Leader’ commercial ship, seized by Yemen’s Houthis last month, is anchored off the coast of al-Salif, Yemen, last week. (credit: KHALED ABDULLAH/REUTERS)

Responses to Houthi attacks

US and British forces have retaliated with several strikes on Houthi facilities but have not been able to stop the attacks.

Top global container line Maersk advised its clients on Tuesday to expect disruptions in the Red Sea to continue into the second half of the year and to factor longer transit times into their supply chain planning.

Seafarers are at risk and have negotiated agreements to receive double pay when entering high-risk zones and have the right to refuse to sail on ships passing through the Red Sea.

Galaxy Maritime Ltd, the UK-registered owner of the car carrier Galaxy Leader hijacked by the Houthis on Nov. 19 with 25 crew members, stated on Tuesday that the mariners from Bulgaria, Ukraine, Mexico, Romania, and the Philippines were not involved in the conflict in the Middle East.

“From the limited phone calls they are allowed, crew members are growing more concerned about their loved ones at home,” Galaxy Maritime said in an update.

“Families of those being detained are now urging the international community to take action to secure the immediate release of the crew.”

Arsenio Dominguez, Secretary-General of the UN’s International Maritime Organization (IMO), called for “collective action to enhance the safety of those at sea” and for the release of the Galaxy Leader.

“Attacking international shipping is first and foremost attacking seafarers,” he said at an IMO meeting.

The Houthis, who control Yemen’s most populous regions, notified shipping officials and insurers of a ban on vessels linked to Israel, the US, and Britain from sailing in surrounding seas.

Yemen’s officially recognized government warned in a letter circulated on February 15 to IMO member countries about the danger of the Houthi militia planting sea mines randomly, using drone boats, and missiles.

The fate of the abandoned cargo vessel Rubymar was uncertain after it was hit by a Houthi missile on Feb. 18 in the southern Red Sea and began leaking fuel. The vessel remained submerged with water.

The ship’s chartering broker informed Reuters on Monday that they were planning to bring a work ship to close a hole caused by the Houthi missile. There was no further update on Tuesday.