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UN Security Council Condemns Houthi Attacks on Shipping

Fire aboard the bulker True Confidence after the Houthi missile strike that killed three crewmembers (Indian Navy)
Fire aboard the bulker True Confidence after the Houthi missile strike that killed three crewmembers (Indian Navy)

Published Mar 19, 2024 1:39 AM by The Maritime Executive

On Monday, all members of the UN Security Council signed a statement condemning "in the strongest terms" the Houthi rebel group's attacks on shipping in the Red Sea. The militant organization has launched dozens of attacks on merchant vessels since November, sinking the bulker Rubymar, killing three crewmembers aboard the bulker True Confidence, and holding the car carrier Galaxy Leader and its crew hostage for more than 100 days. 

The Security Council called for all states to cooperate with a previously-agreed arms embargo on the Houthi group, which (if fully implemented) would prevent the militants from importing the equipment they need to attack ships. The group receives military support from Iran, and the U.S. has repeatedly seized cargoes of Iranian-made missile and drone components bound for Yemen; Iran denies any involvement in the Houthis' operations. 

The council also called for resolving "root causes contributing to regional tensions" - an oblique reference to the ongoing conflict in Gaza - and urged all involved parties to avoid further escalation. 

The timeline for ending the strikes will ultimately be up to Houthi leaders, who have vowed to continue attacks on shipping until they achieve their political objective: an end to Israel's military operation against Hamas in Gaza. There is as yet no firm timetable for the completion of Israel's operation; in the meantime, about half of all Red Sea-Suez traffic has opted to avoid the area and navigate the long way around the Cape of Good Hope. The other half continues to risk attack. 

The U.S. government maintains an active air campaign targeting Houthi anti-ship capabilities within Yemen, and on Monday, American forces found and destroyed multiple Houthi storage and launch sites. Over the course of the afternoon, U.S. Central Command forces neutralized seven anti-ship missiles, three drones and three weapons storage containers in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. Central Command assessed that these weapons posed an "imminent threat to merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships in the region."

U.S. warships are the target for many of the Houthis' attacks, and while the militants have yet to score a hit, the U.S. Navy is taking it seriously. "This is deadly stuff," destroyer squadron commander Capt. Dave Wroe told BBC. He noted that the last time that the U.S. Navy operated in an area where it could expect to be attacked daily was in World War II.