Houthis vow to continue targeting Israel-linked ships as US, UK slap on sanctions

Four key members involved in strikes on vessels in Red Sea and weapon procurement targeted in new sanctions, which rebel group chief says won’t affect ‘our will and determination’

Houthi fighters stage a rally against the US government designating Houthis as a terror group and against the US-led sustained airstrikes on Yemen, near Sanaa, Yemen, Thursday, January 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Osamah Abdulrahman)
Houthi fighters stage a rally against the US government designating Houthis as a terror group and against the US-led sustained airstrikes on Yemen, near Sanaa, Yemen, Thursday, January 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Osamah Abdulrahman)

The targeting of ships linked to Israel will continue until aid reaches the Palestinian people in Gaza, Yemen’s Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi said Thursday in a televised speech, as the United States and the United Kingdom announced they were imposing new sanctions on the group’s leadership.

“Our country will continue its operations until food and medicine reach the people of Gaza,” he said. Most of the ships attacked so far by the group have had tenuous or no connections to the State of Israel.

The group’s leader added that the results of the latest US and British sanctions would be counterproductive and would not affect “our will and determination.”

The US Department of Treasury announced the new sanctions against key members of the Houthi leadership on Thursday, saying that the UK was also imposing the same sanctions. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had announced Tuesday that new sanctions would be forthcoming.

The members who were sanctioned were Houthi Defense Minister Mohamed Nasser al-Atifi, Commander of Houthi Naval Forces Muhammad Fadl Abd Al-Nabi, coastal defense forces chief Muhammad Ali al-Qadiri, and Muhammed Ahmad al-Talibi, whom the two governments described as the Houthi forces’ director of procurement.

The first three were sanctioned for their public commitments to continue targeting ships passing through the Red Sea and for involvement in past attacks, and al-Talibi was sanctioned for leading efforts to smuggle Iranian weapons from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps into Yemen to be used by the Houthis.

A US Navy aircraft preparing to launch from USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) during flight operations in the Red Sea, January 22, 2024. (Kaitlin Watt/U.S. Navy via AP)

“The Houthis’ persistent terrorist attacks on merchant vessels and their civilian crews… threaten to disrupt international supply chains and the freedom of navigation, which is critical to global security, stability and prosperity,” the US Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson, said in a statement.

“Today’s joint action with the United Kingdom demonstrates our collective action to leverage all authorities to stop these attacks.”

The Iran-aligned Houthis, who control most of Yemen’s populated areas, have attacked ships at the mouth of the Red Sea since October, in what they say is a show of solidarity with Palestinians by targeting vessels they said were linked to Israel.

The Houthi attacks have forced international shipping companies to route trade between Europe and Asia around Africa, adding time and costs. The US and Britain bombed Houthi targets last week in what they called an intervention to keep one of the world’s busiest shipping routes open.

On Wednesday, the US Central Command, which is responsible for American military activity in the Middle East, announced that it had successfully destroyed two Houthi anti-ship missiles in its strikes this week.

Houthi fighters march during a rally of support for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and against the US strikes on Yemen outside Sanaa on Monday, January 22, 2024. (AP Photo)

The UK also announced on Wednesday that 24 countries had launched strikes against eight Houthi targets in Yemen.

“These strikes were designed to disrupt and degrade the capability of the Houthis to continue their attacks on global trade and innocent mariners from around the world, while avoiding escalation,” the statement said.

Since October 7, when Hamas terrorists stormed southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking 253 hostages, the Houthis have also launched missiles toward Israel’s southernmost city of Eilat.

The Houthis, mountain fighters who captured Yemen’s capital a decade ago, have retained their grip through years of war against regional powerhouses Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, now in a delicate phase of peace talks.

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