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Explainer: Who Is On Radar of Houthis in Red Sea?

With repeated attacks on ships in the Red Sea, the US and the UK launched several strikes on Houthi sites in Yemen. The Houthis are a rebel organization that is supported by Iran and views Israel as an adversary. Drones and missiles fired at Israel were launched by the Houthis in reaction to the conflict in the Gaza Strip. 

The majority have been blocked. After taking over a commercial ship in the Red Sea on November 19, the Houthis have subsequently launched drone, missile, and speed boat attacks on almost two dozen other targets. Ships that are owned, operated, or flown by Israel, or that are sailing toward Israeli ports, are allegedly the targets of the Houthis. Nonetheless, a large number of the targeted boats are unrelated to Israel.

Who are the Houthis?

The Zaidis, a Shia Muslim minority in Yemen, are supported by the armed political and religious organization known as the Houthis. They claim to be members of the armed groups like Hamas and the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon, as well as the Iranian-led “axis of resistance” against Israel, the US, and the larger West. 

The group, which was once called the Ansar Allah (Partisans of God), was founded in the late 1990s and got its name from Hussein al-Houthi, the movement’s late founder. Abdul Malik al-Houthi, his brother, is the commander as of right now. To achieve more autonomy for their homeland in the north of Yemen, the Houthis waged many uprisings against Ali Abdullah Saleh, the country’s long standing authoritarian president, in the early 2000s. The administration of President Hadi was beset by issues. 

Once the Houthis formed an unexpected alliance with Saleh and security forces still loyal to him, they took over the northern province of Saada and eventually the capital city of Yemini, Sanaa.

US and Humanitarian Efforts

Numerous attacks have been stopped by US-led naval forces. Major shipping firms now choose a considerably longer route across southern Africa in place of the Red Sea, which typically sees 15% of all seaborne cargo pass through. The Houthi rebels, headquartered in Yemen, are positioned on the eastern side of the Red Sea and represent a potential danger to international commerce and, therefore, the global economy

The bombings were a reaction to missile and drone assaults by Iran-backed Houthi terrorists against foreign ships in the Red Sea. These attacks started as a result of the conflict between Israel and Hamas and endangered operations in the vital waterway. The coordinated attacks were “intended to disrupt and degrade the Houthis’ capabilities to endanger mariners and threaten global trade,” according to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

International Shipping and Trade Routes

On January 11 and 22, the US and the UK coordinated airstrikes against Houthi targets in Yemen. The United States has launched further attacks. The strikes, according to President Joe Biden, were a “direct response” to the attacks on Red Sea ships that “threaten freedom of navigation and jeopardized trade.” The measure is “necessary and proportionate” to defend global shipping, according to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. 

US Navy Seals stormed a ship off the coast of Somalia on January 11 in order to capture weapons developed in Iran that were intended for the Houthis. According to the US military, two Navy Seals went missing and are thought to be dead. According to U.S. Central Command, the Air Force attacked over 60 targets in 16 sites where Houthi militants were present. 

The Houthis’ unmanned aerial vehicle, unmanned surface vessel, land-attack cruise missile, coastal radar, and air surveillance capabilities were all targeted by the attacks. The Biden administration has been under increasing pressure to act against the Houthis. However, a lot of people expressed worries about starting a larger confrontation in the area.

Following the bombings, the Houthis pledged to continue attacking ships in the Red Sea, declaring all American-British interests as legitimate targets. In the United States, Progressive Democrats, known for their opposition to the Israel-Hamas conflict, criticized the Biden administration. Several major container shipping companies are avoiding the area, opting for a longer route around South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. Starting January 11, the US and its allies have targeted Houthi military assets, destroying or damaging drones, coastal radar, air surveillance capabilities, weapons storage facilities, and over 25 missile launch sites.


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