The Region – The Houthis

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The Houthis

Yemeni Government Volunteers to Deter the Houthis

Although the Houthi movement claims its months-long offensive against international shipping is motivated by the Gaza conflict, the Houthis’ track record shows they constituted a threat to vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden long before October 7th. In 2022, the Houthis reportedly committed 504 maritime violations, including 183 instances of targeting commercial and military ships, 49 instances of weapon smuggling from Iran, 17 attacks on Saudi and Yemeni ports, the deployment of 192 mines, and 63 assaults on fishermen. While the Biden administration has been hesitant to confront Iran directly over Tehran’s proxy offensive against international shipping, Yemeni specialists propose viable alternative strategies drawing on historical successes in counterterrorism efforts against groups like ISIS. The Yemeni government is proposing a unified approach to combat Houthi terrorism, emphasizing the necessity of a political, rather than military, response from international powers such as the U.S., UK, and EU. Utilizing their influence within the UN Security Council, Yemeni government leaders suggest supporting Yemen’s recognized government and allies to maintain maritime security, enforce international law, and implement UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which includes designating the Houthis as terrorists. This strategy also involves operations to liberate Hodeidah and protect vital sea lanes, with the near-recapture of Hodeidah port in 2019 serving as a testament to the potential success of such initiatives.


On February 19, Houthis launch an attack on the British-owned ship Rubymar near the port of Al Mukha, close to the Bab al Mandab strait. They fire a series of missiles, causing the vessel to halt in the Gulf of Aden, with an imminent risk of sinking. The ship’s crew receives authorization from the Houthis to evacuate safely. Concurrently, the Houthis successfully down an American MQ9 Reaper drone.

Meanwhile, the translation of a video featuring Israel’s Transport Minister discussing the inland goods bridge from India through the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan to Israel stirs controversy. The translation into Arabic provokes a backlash, drawing significant criticism from Palestinians and their supporters, who express their displeasure with a barrage of colorful curses.

On February 20 and 21, the Houthis intensify their offensive operations in the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, targeting several American ships with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). They also launch UAV attacks towards the Israeli seaport of Eilat, although the target remains outside Israeli territory, ensuring no civilian threat. 

The Houthis escalate their maritime aggression by firing several missiles at the Israeli ship MSC SILVER. Meanwhile, the British ship Rubymar, previously attacked by the Houthis in the Gulf of Aden, begins sinking. Meanwhile, the British Maritime Trade Organization reports a fire onboard another vessel, located 70 nautical miles southeast of Aden, following a Houthi missile attack.

The United States Central Command reveals environmental repercussions from the Houthis’ attack on the Rubymar, including an 18-mile oil slick and the release of harmful fertilizers into the sea.

On February 24, Yemeni media outlets report that American and British forces have conducted airstrikes targeting the northern neighborhoods of Sana’a, Yemen’s capital

On February 25, the US-led coalition, involving the UK and supported by Bahrain, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, Denmark, and New Zealand, launches strikes against 18 Houthi locations, including arms and missile depots, UAV facilities, air defense systems, radars, and a helicopter. Al-Mayadeen, a Lebanese channel, reports a total of 22 strikes across Sana’a, Hajjah, and Taizz provinces.

In retaliation, the Houthis attack the American oil tanker Torm Thor with missiles and deploy drones against American warships. However, the US Central Command confirms that these attacks cause no damage or casualties. Footage circulates of an American F/A 18 Super Hornet taking off from an aircraft carrier, tasked with striking Houthi targets.Al Jazeera reports that the Houthis acknowledge a toll of one killed and six injured from an American-British bombing in Taiz Governorate. Despite the coalition strikes, the Houthis vow to continue to block Israeli ships. Iran condemns the American and British strikes, which Tehran claims will escalate regional tensions and widen the scope of war. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani criticizes the United States and Britain for fueling conflict and instability in the region.

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