Houthi rebels threaten to widen ship attacks to Mediterranean

A Houthi anti-Israel and anti-US rally in Sanaa, Yemen, April 19, 2024. (Osamah Abdulrahman/AP Photo)
A Houthi anti-Israel and anti-US rally in Sanaa, Yemen, April 19, 2024. (Osamah Abdulrahman/AP Photo)

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have threatened to extend their attacks on Israel-bound shipping to the Mediterranean after months of strikes on vessels in the Red Sea.

The Iran-backed Houthis, who say they are acting in support of Palestinians during the Israel-Hamas war, said the escalation would take effect “immediately.”

It involves “the targeting of all ships that violate the ban (on) Israeli navigation and that head to the ports of occupied Palestine from the Mediterranean Sea in any reachable area within our ample zone”, military spokesman Yahya Saree says in a statement.

The Houthis, who control large swathes of Yemen including much of its Red Sea coast, have launched scores of drone and missile attacks on shipping since November.

Their campaign has prompted US and British reprisal attacks and the formation of an international naval coalition to protect the vital trade route.

With Israel’s Mediterranean ports lying about 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) from northern Yemen, it is unclear how much of a threat the Houthis will pose.

The Houthi arsenal includes ballistic missiles with a range of 1,600 to 1,900 km, and Iranian Shahed-136 drones that can travel up to 2,000 km, experts say.

The rebels previously threatened to extend their attacks to the Indian Ocean and to vessels taking the detour around southern Africa to avoid the Yemeni coast. But their main focus has remained the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

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