Yemen’s Houthi rebels have escalated their attacks on vessels in the southern Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab strait, raising concerns about the safety of global maritime trade. The Houthis claim these attacks are in support of the Palestinians as Israel and Hamas continue their conflict.
Houthis Attack Norwegian Tanker:
- On Tuesday, the Houthis claimed responsibility for attacking a Norwegian commercial tanker in the Red Sea.
- Their spokesman, Yahya Saree, vowed to continue blocking ships heading to Israeli ports until Israel allows the entry of food and medical aid into Gaza.
- The U.S. military confirmed the attack, stating that it occurred about 60 nautical miles (111 km) north of the Bab al-Mandab Strait.
Houthis Threaten Wider Attacks:
- The Houthis have warned that they will target all ships heading to Israel, regardless of their nationality.
- They have also threatened international shipping companies against dealing with Israeli ports.
Multiple Vessels Attacked:
- The U.S. military reported that three commercial vessels were attacked in international waters in the southern Red Sea.
- The Houthis claimed they targeted two Israeli vessels with drones and missiles.
- Israel also accused the Houthis of seizing a British-owned and Japanese-operated cargo ship in the southern Red Sea.
Bab al-Mandab Strait: A Global Trade Chokepoint:
- The Bab al-Mandab Strait, also known as the Gate of Tears, is a crucial waterway for global trade.
- It is the outlet of the Red Sea, connecting the Arabian Peninsula with Africa.
- Over 7.8 million barrels of crude oil and fuel pass through the strait daily, accounting for 12% of total seaborne-traded oil globally.
- Any disruption to shipping through this narrow passage could have significant consequences for the global economy.
Concerns Over Escalating Conflict:
- The Houthis’ attacks on international shipping raise concerns about a wider escalation of the conflict in Yemen.
- The international community has urged the Houthis to cease their attacks and work towards a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
- International governments are likely to increase their naval presence in the Red Sea to protect shipping.
- They may also consider imposing sanctions on the Houthis or taking military action if their attacks continue.
Uncertainty and Potential Impact:
- The situation in the Red Sea remains uncertain, and it is unclear how the Houthis’ actions will impact global trade.
- The international community is closely monitoring the situation and will continue to assess its options for responding to the Houthis’ actions.