Houthis say no plans to expand shipping attacks

A spokesperson for Yemen’s Houthi rebels has said the group will restrict its attacks on shipping to its aims of blockading Israel and retaliating against air strikes by the US and UK; and does not intend to expand action beyond the Red Sea and immediate surroundings.

The Houthis have targeted Israeli ships at the mouth of the Red Sea in solidarity with the Palestinians since October, when Israel began military action in Gaza, following Hamas attacks on October 7.

In an interview with Reuters, Mohammed Abdulsalam said the group had no plans to target adversaries Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

‘We do not want the escalation to expand,’ he said. ‘We imposed rules of engagement in which not a single drop of blood was shed or major material losses. It represented pressure on Israel only, it did not represent pressure on any country in the world.’

The attacks have forced international shippers to reroute trade between Europe and Asia around Africa, adding costs and doubling the time taken in some cases.

‘We do not want the conflict to expand in the region… and we are still working on non-escalation, but the decision is up to the Americans, as long as they continue to attack,’ said Abdulsalam. ‘Yemen is concerned with responding, and is interested in verifying or maintaining its position by preventing Israeli ships from heading to the occupied Palestinian territories.’

According to shipping trade union Nautilus International, the UK warlike operations area committee (WOAC) has expanded recommendations to allow shipping staff on vessels with ties to the UK and US to disembark at a port before entering a high-risk zone or to receive twice their usual pay for each day spent in the affected zone. This recommendation was previously only for Israeli-linked vessels.

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