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A Yemeni Coast Guard boat sails near the Galaxy Leader commercial ship, seized by Yemen's Houthis last month, off the coast of al-Salif, Yemen, December 5, 2023.

A Yemeni Coast Guard boat sails near the Galaxy Leader commercial ship, seized by Yemen's Houthis last month, off the coast of al-Salif, Yemen, December 5, 2023. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Houthis Say No End to Red Sea Attacks Until Israeli ‘Aggression’ Stops

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February 27, 2024

By Jonathan Saul and Mohamad Ghobari

LONDON/ADEN/CAIRO, Feb 27 (Reuters) – Yemen’s Houthis said on Tuesday they could only reconsider their missile and drone attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea once Israel ends its “aggression” in the Gaza Strip.

Asked if they would halt the attacks if a ceasefire deal is reached, Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam told Reuters the situation would be reassessed if the siege of Gaza ended and humanitarian aid was free to enter.

“There will be no halt to any operations that help Palestinian people except when the Israeli aggression on Gaza and the siege stop,” he said, ahead of new reports of another suspected attack. 

A Marshall Islands-flagged, Greek-owned bulk carrier on Tuesday reported that a missile hit the water 3 nautical miles from the ship, which was located 63 nautical miles northwest of Hodeidah, Yemen, British maritime security firm Ambrey said in an advisory note. 

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) also sent an alert on the incident, adding that the crew and vessel were reported safe and proceeding to next port of call. 

There was a Panama-flagged, UAE-owned chemical/products tanker approximately 2 nautical miles away at the time the missile was sighted, Ambrey said.

In what appears to be a related event, the Houthi’s Al-Masira television said late on Tuesday that the U.S and UK together launched two airstrikes over Hodeidah, Yemen’s oldest port city. 

Shipping risks have escalated due to repeated Houthi strikes in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab Strait since November in what they describe as acts of solidarity with Palestinians against Israel in the Gaza war.

Top global container line Maersk on Tuesday advised clients to prepare for disruptions in the Red Sea to last into the second half of the year and to build longer transit times into their supply chain planning. 

Seafarers remain in the firing line and have signed agreements to receive double pay when entering the high-risk zones and have the right to refuse to sail on ships passing through the Red Sea.

Galaxy Maritime Ltd, the UK-registered owner of car carrier Galaxy Leader which was hijacked by the Houthis on Nov. 19 with its 25 crew members, said on Tuesday that the mariners from Bulgaria, Ukraine, Mexico, Romania and the Philippines had “nothing whatsoever to do with the conflict in the Middle East.”

“Families of those being detained are now calling on the international community to take action to secure the immediate release of the crew,” Galaxy Maritime said in a update.

Arsenio Dominguez, secretary-general of the U.N.’s International Maritime Organization (IMO), at a meeting called for “collective action to fortify the safety of those at sea” and for the release of the Galaxy Leader

The Houthis, who control Yemen’s most populous regions, have sent shipping officials and insurers formal notice of what they termed a ban on vessels linked to Israel, the U.S. and Britain from sailing in surrounding seas. 

Yemen’s officially recognized government said in a letter circulated on Feb. 15 to IMO member countries that it had “warned of the danger of the Houthi militia” adding that the group had “continued to randomly plant sea mines”, while also using drone boats and missiles.

The fate of the abandoned cargo vessel Rubymar was unclear after it was hit by a Houthi missile on Feb. 18 in the southern Red Sea and was leaking fuel. The vessel remained submerged. If it goes down, it would be the first sinking linked to the ongoing Houthi campaign.

The ship’s chartering broker told Reuters on Monday that it was looking to bring a work ship to close a hole caused by the Houthi missile. There was no further update on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Jonathan Saul in London and Mohamed Ghobari in Aden; Additional reporting by Maha El Dahan in Dubai, Yomna Ehab and Adam Makary in Cairo and Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Nick Macfie and Cynthia Osterman)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2024.

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