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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Houthis pledge safe passage for Russian and Chinese ships

The Yemen-based militant group has said vessels from all countries except Israel and its allies will be allowed to pass through the Red Sea

Houthi militants in Yemen have promised safe passage through the Red Sea to ships from all countries except Israel and nations “in any way connected with it,” a representative of the group has told the Izvestiya newspaper. He noted that Russia and China are among the nations whose vessels will not be targeted.

The Houthis have carried out a string of drone and missile attacks on ships in the Red Sea region in recent months, following the outbreak of the war in Gaza. They have vowed to continue targeting any Israel-linked vessels until the blockade of the Palestinian enclave is lifted and the hostilities are stopped.

In an interview with Russian newspaper Izvestiya published on Friday, Muhammad al-Buheiti – a member of the Houthi politburo – stated that “Israeli ships or those in any way connected with Israel will not have the slightest opportunity to sail through the Red Sea. The attacks on them will continue.” 

“As for all other countries, including Russia and China, their ships will not be threatened,” al-Buheiti added. He insisted that the Houthis are prepared to provide “security guarantees for their safe passage through the Red Sea because free navigation plays a significant role in our country.” 

Al-Buheiti stressed that the militants’ aim is not to capture or sink any particular ship, but rather “to raise the economic costs for the Jewish state to stop the carnage in Gaza.” 

Other Houthi representatives have stated separately that American and British ships are now considered legitimate targets. Earlier this week, the militants struck a US-owned container ship with a ballistic missile and a Greek-owned carrier bound for Israel. Another US-owned vessel was hit on Wednesday by a drone carrying a bomb.

The attacks came in response to a US-led series of airstrikes on Yemen on Wednesday last week, which targeted more than a dozen Houthi launch sites as part of ‘Operation Prosperity Guardian’ – an international maritime coalition set up with the stated goal of protecting commercial shipping.

On Thursday, Houthi Brigadier General Yahya Saree announced the group had carried yet out another missile strike, this time on the US-owned and Greek-operated Chem Ranger tanker in the Gulf of Aden in the Arabian Sea. He described the move as “retaliation to the American and British attacks,” warning that “any new aggression will not go unpunished.”