Houthi threats to maritime navigation have escalated in recent weeks, prompting international scrutiny of the group’s behavior in the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea.
Conversations Asharq Al-Awsat had with Middle East researchers revealed criticism of what they perceive as “international leniency” towards Yemen’s Houthis, accompanied by calls for sanctions.
Despite US efforts to mitigate risks, Yemeni voices, including researchers and think tanks, are advocating for stronger action to ensure peace in Yemen and curb the military capabilities of the group exploiting the conflict in Gaza for their own gain.
Since waging a coup in Yemen, the Houthi group has openly expressed intentions to control the maritime passages adjacent to the country, engaging in actions that constitute clear assaults on international navigation routes.
However, their recent actions have taken on a bolder and more audacious nature, unfolding in increasingly sensitive circumstances and contradicting efforts to end the conflict in Yemen.
The group’s peculiar interest in maritime passages becomes apparent when considering its advance from Sanaa.
Rather than targeting the oil-rich governorates of Marib or Shabwa, the Houthis directed their efforts towards Hodeidah. This strategic move signals the port city’s importance to the group or those orchestrating its actions.
The Houthis have a history of targeting foreign ships and Gulf tankers in the Red Sea and near the Bab el Mandeb Strait through acts of piracy, rocket attacks, and maritime mine deployments.
The high-profile hijacking of the Emirati vessel off the country's western coast early last year stands as a notable incident that raised international concerns about the security of international trade routes.
The Houthis’ documented practices include the targeting of US Navy vessels with missiles.
In response, the US Navy retaliated by striking radar sites in October 2016.
Subsequent incidents involved the Houthis targeting a booby-trapped boat at the port of Mokha the following year. In 2018, the group further escalated tensions by launching missiles at Saudi oil tankers.