Houthis Say They Can Reassess Red Sea Attacks When Israel Ends War Against Hamas

Houthis Say They Can Reassess Red Sea Attacks When Israel Ends War Against Hamas
Greek-flagged bulk cargo vessel Sea Champion is docked to the port of Aden, Yemen, to which it arrived after being attacked in the Red Sea in what appears to have been a mistaken missile strike by Houthi militia, on Feb. 21, 2024. (Fawaz Salman /Reuters)

LONDON/ADEN/CAIRO—Yemen’s Houthi terrorist group said on Tuesday they could only reconsider their missile and drone attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea once Israel ends its war against the Hamas terrorist group in the Gaza Strip.

Asked if they would halt the attacks if a ceasefire deal is reached, Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam told Reuters the situation would be reassessed if the siege of Gaza ended and humanitarian aid was free to enter.

“There will be no halt to any operations that help Palestinian people except when the Israeli aggression on Gaza and the siege stop,” he said, referring to the Israeli-Hamas war that began on Oct. 7, 2023, when Hamas attacked southern Israel killing 1,200 Israelis and taking about 240 Israelis hostage.

A Marshall Islands-flagged, Greek-owned bulk carrier on Tuesday reported that a missile hit the water 3 nautical miles from the ship, which was located 63 nautical miles northwest of Hodeidah, Yemen, British maritime security firm Ambrey said in an advisory note.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) also sent an alert on the incident, adding that the crew and vessel were reported safe and proceeding to the next port of call.

There was a Panama-flagged, UAE-owned chemical/products tanker approximately 2 nautical miles away at the time the missile was sighted, Ambrey said.

In what appears to be a related event, the Houthi’s Al-Masira television said late on Tuesday that the United States and the UK together launched two airstrikes over Hodeidah, Yemen’s oldest port city.

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

Top global container line Maersk on Tuesday advised clients to prepare for disruptions in the Red Sea to last into the second half of the year and to build longer transit times into their supply chain planning.

Seafarers remain in the firing line and have signed agreements to receive double pay when entering the 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 car carrier Galaxy Leader which was hijacked by the Houthis on Nov. 19 with its 25 crew members, said on Tuesday that the mariners from Bulgaria, Ukraine, Mexico, Romania, and the Philippines had “nothing whatsoever to do with the conflict in the Middle East.”

“Families of those being detained are now calling on the international community to take action to secure the immediate release of the crew,” Galaxy Maritime said in an update.

Arsenio Dominguez, secretary-general of the U.N.’s International Maritime Organization (IMO), at a meeting called for “collective action to fortify the safety of those at sea” and for the release of the Galaxy Leader.

The Houthis, who control Yemen’s most populous regions, have sent shipping officials and insurers formal notice of what they termed a ban on vessels linked to Israel, the United States, and Britain from sailing in surrounding seas.

Yemen’s officially recognized government said in a letter circulated on Feb. 15 to IMO member countries that it had “warned of the danger of the Houthi militia” adding that the group had “continued to randomly plant sea mines,” while also using drone boats and missiles.

The fate of the abandoned cargo vessel Rubymar was unclear after it was hit by a Houthi missile on Feb. 18 in the southern Red Sea and was leaking fuel. The vessel remained submerged. If it goes down, it would be the first sinking linked to the ongoing Houthi campaign.

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

By Jonathan Saul and Mohamad Ghobari