Yemen’s Houthi Rebels Continue Attacks on Commercial Ships in the Red Sea

Yemen's Houthi Rebels Continue Attacks on Commercial Ships in the Red Sea

U.S. Naval Commander Highlights Ongoing Threat and Multinational Response

Yemen’s Houthi rebels show no signs of relenting in their attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea, according to the top commander of U.S. naval forces in the Middle East. Vice Admiral Brad Cooper revealed that since the launch of Operation Prosperity Guardian, a multinational security initiative aimed at protecting trade routes, there have been no drone or missile strikes on the 1,200 merchant ships that have traversed the Red Sea region. However, the seriousness of the attacks has prompted shipping companies to divert their vessels, causing delays and increased costs. As the threat persists, more countries are expected to join the coalition to counter the Houthi rebels’ aggression.

Operation Prosperity Guardian gains momentum with international participation

Denmark recently announced its intention to send a frigate to join Operation Prosperity Guardian, becoming the latest country to contribute to the multinational security initiative. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin unveiled the operation during a visit to Bahrain on December 18, emphasizing the need for collective action to address the international challenge posed by the Houthi rebels. The initiative aims to protect the vital trade route that connects markets in Asia and Europe through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, the Red Sea, and the Suez Canal. Cooper expressed confidence that more countries would join in the coming weeks, bolstering the coalition’s efforts.

Coalition warships patrol the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden

To ensure the safety of commercial ships, five warships from the United States, France, and the United Kingdom are patrolling the waters of the southern Red Sea and the western Gulf of Aden. Vice Admiral Cooper, who heads the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, revealed that since the start of Operation Prosperity Guardian, these ships have successfully intercepted and destroyed 17 drones and four anti-ship ballistic missiles. The multinational presence aims to deter further attacks and provide a persistent security presence in the region.

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Houthi rebels escalate use of anti-ship ballistic missiles

Despite the coalition’s efforts, the Houthi rebels have intensified their use of anti-ship ballistic missiles, posing an ongoing threat to commercial ships. Cooper acknowledged that the coalition is prepared for the possibility of continued reckless attacks by the Houthis. The rebels, backed by Iran, have been engaged in a protracted conflict since seizing Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in 2014. Their attacks on shipping in the region have increased in recent months, particularly during the Israel-Hamas conflict. The Houthis have also issued threats to vessels linked to Israel, leading to attacks on container ships and oil tankers flagged to countries like Norway and Liberia.

Coalition provides guidance and coordination with shipping industry

In addition to patrolling the waters, the coalition is actively engaged with commercial ships to provide guidance on maneuvering and best practices to avoid attacks. Cooper emphasized the importance of close coordination with the shipping industry to enhance security measures. Operation Prosperity Guardian builds upon the establishment of an international task force in April 2022, which aimed to improve maritime security in the region. However, the current operation offers a greater number of ships and a persistent presence to assist vessels and ensure safe passage.

Resumption of shipping through the strait signals progress

Despite the ongoing threat, there are positive signs as shipping companies resume using the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. Maersk, one of the world’s largest shipping companies, had initially rerouted its vessels around Africa due to the attacks but announced on December 25 that it would resume sending ships through the strait. Cooper also mentioned that another shipping company had followed suit. This development indicates that commerce is beginning to flow more smoothly, thanks to the efforts of Operation Prosperity Guardian.

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As Yemen’s Houthi rebels continue their attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea, Operation Prosperity Guardian, a multinational security initiative, aims to safeguard vital trade routes. The coalition’s efforts, which include patrolling the waters, intercepting drones and missiles, and providing guidance to commercial ships, have contributed to a resumption of shipping through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. However, the Houthi rebels’ use of anti-ship ballistic missiles remains a persistent threat. With more countries expected to join the coalition in the coming weeks, there is hope for enhanced security and the uninterrupted flow of commerce in the region.