US, UK forces down 15 drones over Red Sea as Houthis vow to keep up attacks on Israel

Houthi politburo member also warns any move against rebels will have dire consequences

Armed Yemeni supporters of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels brandish their weapons at a rally in the capital Sanaa, January 27, 2022. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP)
Armed Yemeni supporters of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels brandish their weapons at a rally in the capital Sanaa, January 27, 2022. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP)

A senior Houthi official has vowed that the Yemeni rebels will continue operations against Israel, as repeated attacks by the Iran-backed group have disrupted international shipping through a key Red Sea waterway.

“The Houthis will not abandon the Palestinian cause, regardless of any US, Israeli, or Western threats,” Houthi politburo member Ali al-Qahoum told Al-Mayadeen, according to Reuters, while warning any hostile move against Yemen would have dire consequences.

He also claimed: “Yemen is concerned in protecting international maritime navigation in accordance with international laws and norms.”

Houthis said they fired a barrage of drones Saturday toward the port city of Eilat in southern Israel.

US Navy forces said they shot down 14 drones over the Red Sea Saturday morning. Egypt’s state-run media also reported that Egyptian air defense had shot down a “flying object” off the Egyptian resort town of Dahab.

A British destroyer brought down a suspected attack drone in the Red Sea, UK Defense Minister Grant Shapps said. The overnight action was the first time the Royal Navy has shot down an aerial target in conflict since the 1991 Gulf War.

Shapps said attacks on commercial ships in the global trade artery by Yemen’s Houthi rebels “represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security.”

“The UK remains committed to repelling these attacks to protect the free flow of global trade,” he said in a statement.

Global shipping has become a target during the war between Israel and Hamas, which like the Houthis is backed by Iran. The Houthis have launched a series of attacks on vessels in the Red Sea, as well as launching drones and missiles targeting Israel.

This photo released by the Houthi Media Center shows a Houthi forces helicopter approaching the cargo ship Galaxy Leader on November 19, 2023 in the Red Sea. (Houthi Media Center via AP)

Earlier this month, three commercial ships in the Red Sea were struck by ballistic missiles fired from Houthi-controlled Yemen, and a US warship shot down three drones during the assault, the US military said.

One of the world’s largest shipping companies, Maersk, said Friday it was suspending its vessels’ passage through a key Red Sea strait following attacks on merchant ships.

“Following the near-miss incident involving Maersk Gibraltar [Thursday] and yet another attack on a container vessel today, we have instructed all Maersk vessels in the area bound to pass through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait to pause their journey until further notice,” the Danish company said in a statement to AFP.

German shipping company Hapag-Lloyd announced it too was suspending Red Sea container ship traffic until December 18, after one of its vessels was attacked by the Houthis. At that point, they would make a decision on the subsequent period, it added.

The statements came after a ballistic missile fired by Houthi rebels slammed into a cargo ship Friday in the Red Sea near the strategic Bab el-Mandeb Strait, following another attack only hours earlier that struck a separate vessel, authorities said.

The missile attack on the MSC Palatium III and the earlier assault on the Al Jasrah escalated a maritime campaign by the Iranian-backed Houthis.

The attacks also endanger ships traveling through a vital corridor for cargo and energy shipments for both Europe and Asia from the Suez Canal out to the Indian Ocean.

The Houthis say their attacks aim to end Israel’s war with the Hamas terror group. However, the links to the ships targeted in the rebel assaults have grown more tenuous as the attacks continue.

“The Yemeni armed forces confirm they will continue to prevent all ships heading to Israeli ports from navigating in the [Red Sea] until they bring in the food and medicine that our steadfast brothers in the Gaza Strip need,” the Houthi military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree, said in a statement claiming responsibility for Friday’s attacks.

The Bab el-Mandeb Strait is only 29 kilometers (18 miles) wide at its narrowest point, limiting traffic to two channels for inbound and outbound shipments, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Nearly 10 percent of all oil traded at sea passes through it. An estimated $1 trillion in goods pass through the strait annually.

In November, Houthis seized a vehicle transport ship linked to Israel in the Red Sea off Yemen. The rebels still hold the vessel near the port city of Hodeida. Separately, a container ship owned by an Israeli billionaire came under attack by a suspected Iranian drone in the Indian Ocean.

Most Popular
read more: