Yemen’s Houthis continue to target Red Sea ships, despite US warnings

SHARM EL SHEIKH, EGYPT - APRIL 5, 2018 : Red sea, a large cargo ship sails on the sea. High quality photo

Yemen’s Houthi rebels on Thursday launched an unmanned naval ‘suicide’ vessel into international shipping lanes in the Red Sea, the Associated Press reported, citing Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, the head of US Navy operations in the Middle East.

The incident – which saw the surface vessel get ‘within a few miles’ of US Navy and commercial ships before detonating – came shortly after Washington and 12 allies issued a ‘final warning’ to the Iran-backed Islamist group over its targeting of commercial vessels passing through the Bab al-Mandeb Strait.

The Washington-led alliance had said in a statement on Wednesday that the Houthis must end their illegal attacks in the Red Sea and release unlawfully detained vessels and crews, emphasizing that if the group continues to threaten lives, the free flow of goods through the region’s waterways, and the global economy, it will bear responsibility for the consequences.

A Biden administration official subsequently told the Associated Press that the Houthis should not expect any further warnings, but declined to comment on what military action the US might take.

Almost 15% of global trade passes through the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, which links the Mediterranean with the Indian Ocean via the Suez Canal and the Red Sea.

According to the International Chamber of Shipping, since the Houthi rebels declared in October that they would take action against vessels that they believe to be linked to Israel, 20% of the world’s container ships have begun avoiding the Red Sea and instead sailing around southern Africa.

Mosaic is among the companies that have had to reroute shipments as a result of the disrutions. Yara also said previously that it had been ‘mildly impacted’.

Furthermore, the chief executive of Israel’s Eilat port said last month that the cargo terminal, which handles the country’s potash exports to the Far East, had suffered an 85% decrease in business because of the crisis and could soon cease to operate.

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