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Houthi Attacks Continue As West Ramps Up Pressure

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British Foreign Secretary David Cameron has urged China to exert its influence over its ally Iran to put an end to Yemeni Houthis’ attacks on shipping in the Red Sea.

Camron made the call during his meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Friday, as Houthis continued firing missiles at commercial vessels.

In the meeting, Wang stressed the importance of “the convergence of interests” between London and Beijing, adding that the two sides can play significant roles to promote security and peace.

Yemeni Houthis launched their campaign to target shipping lanes in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in early November urged Muslims to initiate a blockade of Israel. Houthis claim they only target Israeli and Israel-bound ships, but the attacks have proven to be more random.

Though Iran has avoided any direct military involvement in the Israel-Hamas conflict, the regime has used its proxy groups such as Houthis and Hezbollah to attack Israeli and American targets in the region.

The US State Department announced on Friday that a missile hit an India-bound oil tanker in the Red Sea.

The vessel identified as M/T Pollux was struck with a missile launched from the Yemeni territories, the State Department added. The Panamanian-flagged tanker was carrying crude oil, the report added.

“This is yet another example of the lawless attacks on international shipping, which continue after numerous joint and international statements calling the Houthis to cease,” remarked a State Department spokesperson.

Yemeni Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack on Saturday, saying the oil tanker was owned by Britain.

“The naval forces of the Yemeni Armed Forces carried out a targeting operation against a British oil ship (Pollux) in the Red Sea with a large number of appropriate naval missiles, and the strikes were accurate and direct,” read a statement issued by the Houthis’ military spokesperson Yahya Sarea.

Meanwhile, AFP reported that the EU next week will officially announce the launch of the bloc’s naval mission in the Red Sea as part of the international campaign to stop the destabilizing actions of Iran-backed Houthis.

Germany, Belgium, France and Italy have agreed to contribute vessels to the mission, which is termed Aspides, meaning shield in Greek. At least four vessels are to take part in Aspides, an EU official said.

“The overall commander of the mission will be Greek, while the head officer in operation control at sea will be Italian,” the EU official went on to say.

The United States also launched in December a multinational naval coalition in the Red Sea to protect trade vessels. According to Reuters, 20 countries, including Britain, Norway, Seychelles, France, the Netherlands, Australia and Italy, have joined the coalition.

Amid mounting international pressures on Iran’s proxy group, the US Department of Treasury announced that Washington’s sanctions against Houthis as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) have been officially enforced on Friday.

Last month, the Biden administration listed Houthis as Specially Designated Global Terrorist in response to the group’s rising threats in the region. Washington, however, has not decided yet to include Houthis in the list of foreign terrorist organizations (FTO).

The Biden administration delisted the Houthis in 2021 as both a foreign terrorist organization and as a specially designated global terrorist entity.

On January 10, the UN Security Council passed a resolution, calling on Houthis to stop attacks on shipping immediately.

Two days after the resolution was approved, the US and UK targeted dozens of Houthis’ sites in Yemen. The two countries have launched several other rounds of preemptive offensives against the group’s targets in Yemen in an attempt to decrease its military capabilities.