Houthi militants in Yemen say they will not stop attacking vessels in the Red Sea despite the formation of a U.S.-led task force to protect commercial shipping in the region.
‘Our war is a moral war, and therefore, no matter how many alliances America mobilizes, our military operations will not stop,’ Houthi ruling council member Mohammed Albukhaiti told The Washington Post Tuesday.
Commercial vessels have for weeks been under attack by drones and ballistic missiles fired from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. The Houthis say the attacks are in protest to Israel’s ongoing war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The seriousness of the attacks, several of which have damaged vessels, has led multiple shipping companies to order their ships to hold in place and not enter the Bab el-Mandeb Strait until the security situation can be addressed. Others have rerouted their vessels, adding costs and delays.
‘Participating in a coalition to protect the perpetrators of genocidal crimes is a disgrace in the history of the participating countries,’ Albukhaiti told The Post. ‘If America had moved in the right direction, it would have obliged Israel to stop its crimes without the need to expand the scope of the conflict.’
His comments came hours after the U.S. and a host of other nations announced the creation of a new task force to protect ships transiting the Red Sea.
‘This is an international challenge that demands collective action,’ Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement released just after midnight in Bahrain. ‘Therefore today I am announcing the establishment of Operation Prosperity Guardian, an important new multinational security initiative.’
There are about 400 commercial vessels transiting the southern Red Sea, an area roughly the size of Washington D.C. to Boston, at any given time.
Under the new mission, the military ships will not necessarily escort a specific vessel, but will be positioned to provide umbrella protection to as many as possible at a given time, an official familiar with the plans told The Associated Press.
Mohammed Abdel-Salam, the Houthis’ chief negotiator and spokesman, challenged the U.S.-created coalition on Tuesday, saying the Iranian-backed rebels would continue targeting Israel-linked vessels off Yemen.
‘The American-formed coalition is to protect Israel and militarize the sea without any justification, and will not stop Yemen from continuing its legitimate operations in support of Gaza,’ he wrote on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
He said the Houthis’ attacks ‘are not a show of force nor a challenge to anyone,’ adding, ‘Whoever seeks to expand the conflict must bear the consequences of his actions.’
The Associated Press contributed to this report.