Houthis Escalate Threats Against Shipping Launching “Fourth Stage”

warship escort
French destroyer on escort duty in the Bab al-Mandeb (EUNAVFOR Aspides)

Published May 3, 2024 2:01 PM by The Maritime Executive


The leader of the Houthi movement called for a further escalation of the attacks on shipping citing the potential attack on the city of Rafah and as Western pressure grows on Hamas to accept the terms of a proposed ceasefire. The statements came during their weekly demonstrations in Sanaa staged on Fridays and after a week of increased assaults targeting commercial vessels and U.S. warships.

“The Yemeni armed forces announce the beginning of the implementation of the fourth stage of escalation,” Houthi spokesperson Yahya Saree announced in a televised speech and in posting on social media. He said it was effective immediately from “the moment of this statement.”

The statement said they were targeting all ships “violating the ban on Israeli navigation,” and heading to Israeli ports in the Mediterranean. They vowed attacks in “any reachable area,” within their range, which some media outlets are interpreting as a threat against ships in the Eastern Mediterranean. That would require a range of nearly 1,200 miles Bloomberg highlights but comes days after a Houthi drone appeared to have struck the MSC Orion in a range of 300 to 400 nautical miles south of Yemen in the Indian Ocean.

The Houthi also threatened to expand their attacks to “all ships and companies that are related to supplying and entering [Israeli ports] of any nationality if a military operation is launched against Rafah” in southern Gaza. The United States and other Western allies have been pressuring Israel not to attack Rafah while the Israeli government and military continue to accuse the leaders of Hamas of hiding among the civilian population of Rafah.

Before announcing the new threats, the leader of the Houthis celebrated on Thursday what he called the success of their efforts since they began in November 2023. He claimed their forces had attacked 107 ships. He said they have launched 606 ballistic missiles and drones. Last week alone he claimed they conducted 33 launches.

U.S. Central Command and the EUNAVFOR Aspides operation have both confirmed a resumption of the attacks. CENTCOM has reported downing attacks this week including three aerial drones on May 2 and a surface drone on April 30. Aspides reported the Italian frigate Fasan, which recently assumed the role of flagship relieving another Italian vessel, downed multiple attacks on a merchant ship on April 29.

Speaking on the situation in the Red Sea, yesterday Maersk CEO Vincent Clerc told investors he expected the security issues and diversions to continue for months. He said Maersk has no intentions of returning to the Red Sea area speculating the diversions could even continue into 2025.