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Iran-Allied Houthis Escalate With Several Attacks In One Day

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Iran-backed Houthis said they launched three separate attacks in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean Monday, including on two US warships, in what seems to be a clear uptick in the group’s operations.

The Yemen militants have targeted dozens of vessels since November in support of Palestinians in Gaza. The attacks had subsided for a few weeks following US and UK strikes against Houthi interests inside Yemen. But the calm ended last week with an attack against a British oil tanker.

And on Monday, there were yet more attacks: on two commercial vessels and two US warships, as confirmed by the US military.

“At 7:49 a.m., US Central Command (USCENTCOM) forces successfully engaged and destroyed one Houthi launched airborne unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on a flight path towards USS Philippine Sea and USS Laboon in the Red Sea. There were no injuries or damages reported by US, coalition, or merchant vessels,” CENTCOM posted on X.

The Houthis also targeted MV Cyclades, a Malta-flagged, Greece-owned vessel. There were no injuries, according to CENTCOM. They also attacked the container ship MSC Orion container in the Indian Ocean, Orion is owned by Zodiac Maritime, which is partly owned by an Israeli businessman called Eyal Ofer.

The Houthis’ military spokesman, Yahya Saree, delivered a televised statement early hours of Tuesday local time, claiming responsibility and “success” for all the above operations.

“The Yemeni Armed Forces… continue to carry out their military operations in support of the oppressed Palestinian people and in defense of dear Yemen,” Sarea said. “These operations will not stop until the lifting of the siege and cessation of aggression against the Palestinian people in Gaza Strip.”

With their Iranian drones and missiles, the Houthis have managed to disrupt maritime trade, forcing shipping giants to take much longer and much costlier routes around the southern tip of Africa.

It remains unclear whether the resumption of attacks last week –and now its escalation– is related to the heightened tensions between Iran and Israel. There are suggestions that Israel would in the very near future invade Rafah in southern Gaza and strike deep into Lebanon. The Houthis’ recent attacks could be an attempt to distract Israel from those operations, both of which could end up being costly for Iran.

The Houthis have expanded their area of operation since March, venturing east from the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden to towards the Indian ocean to attempt to block vessels headed for Israel from passing through the Ocean toward the Cape of Good Hope.

To deal with the disruption and neutralize the Houthi threat, the US (alongside the UK) have carried out several attacks on Houthi targets inside Yemen. In response, the Houthis have declared that they will attack any vessel that they believe is linked to the US and UK.

It remains to be seen if (and how) the ongoing conflict between Iran and Israel would influence Houthi operations. Iranian officials have always maintained that the Houthis make their own decisions. It is beyond doubt, however, that Houthis are more than happy to make such decisions as would help their main sponsor, whenever required.