Yemen’s Houthis Target U.S. and Israeli-Linked Vessels in the Red Sea

Madeline Kruszczynski
Staff Writer

On November 27, a pair of ballistic missiles struck commercial vessels in the Red Sea and the Houthis, a Shiite militant group that controls most of Yemen, claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Houthis, a religious rebel movement established in the 1990s and named after its founder Hussein Badruddin al-Houthi, constitute a Shiite group that represents approximately one-third of the country, while the remaining two-thirds are predominantly Sunni Muslims, according to Al Jazeera. Widely recognized for their strong anti-American and anti-Western stance, the Houthis share rhetoric reminiscent of Iran. Because of the group’s similar stance to Iran and ties with the country, the Houthis group is often perceived as a proxy for Iran, although Iran consistently denies allegations of supporting this rebel faction, reports NPR.

In the past, the Houthis have targeted ships in this region, but in light of the violence in Israel and Palestine, Houthis representative General Yahya Saree says they intend to, “prevent Israeli ships from navigating the Red Sea (and Gulf of Aden) until the Israeli aggression against our steadfast brothers in the Gaza Strip stops,” as reported by the Associated Press. The ship that was allegedly attacked by the Houthis was the Unity Explorer,  a private commercial ship owned by a company with ties to Israel. The USS Carney, a Naval destroyer, shot down three drones heading toward the ship, minimizing the damage to the vessel. 

In the ensuing hours following the USS Carney’s aid to the Unity Explorer, the destroyer USS Mason shot down another Houthi-launched drone in the Red Sea. Though no official target was stated, NPR reports that many smaller vessels surrounded the area of the intended rocket launch targets. Officials from the U.S. Department of Defense say, “Either way, it presents an imminent threat” and further explained, “The decision was made to shoot it down before it became a greater threat,” according to Politico.

“We also have every reason to believe that these attacks, while launched by the Houthis in Yemen, are fully enabled by Iran,” United States Central Command said, continuing to express that the U.S. will consider “all appropriate responses,” reports NPR. However, U.S. military leaders and diplomats indicate a shared desire for restraint against the Houthis to prevent an escalation of violence. “There have certainly been irresponsible actions taken by the Houthis, especially when it comes to targeting commercial vessels that are transiting international waters,” Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh says, according to Reuters. However, to respond to these actions, other officials seek alternative solutions instead of retaliation. White House official Jake Sullivan says, “At a broad level the idea that we would work with other countries and their naval vessels to try to provide a greater level of security through the Red Sea, that’s something that we’re actively discussing with our colleagues,” reports Reuters. This proposal would support a policy of restraint from the United States. The United States will keep a close eye on the Yemeni group and remain committed to restraining Iran and its alleged proxy powers. 

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