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US-led coalition warns Houthis against attacks in Red Sea

Washington, allies tell Yemeni rebel group to stop attacks on commercial vessels or face consequences

US-led coalition warns Houthis against attacks in Red Sea

A broad US-led coalition of 13 nations has issued a warning to the Houthis, a Yemeni rebel group, against attacking shipping vessels in the Red Sea.

“Ongoing Houthi attacks in the Red Sea are illegal, unacceptable, and profoundly destabilizing. There is no lawful justification for intentionally targeting civilian shipping and naval vessels,” the joint statement issued by 13 nations said.

“These attacks threaten innocent lives from all over the world and constitute a significant international problem that demands collective action,” it said.

Nearly 15% of global seaborne trade passes through the Red Sea, including 8% of global grain trade, 12% of seaborne-traded oil and 8% of the world’s liquefied natural gas trade.

Addressing a press briefing, spokesman for the White House National Security Council John Kirby said the joint statement “demonstrates the resolve of global partners against these unlawful attacks and underlines our commitment to holding malign actors accountable for their actions.”

“The president has made clear the US does not seek conflict with any nation or actor in the Middle East,” he said, adding “but neither will we shrink from the task of defending ourselves, our interests, our partners or the free flow of international commerce.”

“There are many nations that are assisting us in Operation Prosperity Guardian in the Red Sea that don’t want to be public that are contributing capabilities, but they don’t want it public,” Kirby added, when asked about the nations that have signed up for the newly formed joint task force to check attacks on vessels in the Red Sea.

The Houthis have carried out 24 attacks on commercial vessels since mid-November, the US Central Command, which oversees US military operations in the Middle East, said.

Tensions escalated last week when the Houthis fired at US helicopters that came to rescue a Singapore-flagged vessel in the Red Sea. The US Navy helicopters fire back, sinking three of four small Houthi boats.

The attacks by the Houthis have affected the global economy significantly. A majority of oil tankers and container ships are now bypassing the usual route and instead circumnavigating Africa. Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk on Tuesday announced its decision to steer clear of the Red Sea route.

Harsh V. Pant, vice-president of studies and foreign policy at the Observer Research Foundation, highlighted in a Business Standard article the significant impact of the Gaza war’s knock-on effects, particularly on India.

Pant emphasized that Houthi rebels attacking ships bound for Indian ports demonstrate how conflicts in seemingly distant regions like the Red Sea can have direct consequences.

In the same piece, co-authored with Suchet Vir Singh, an associate fellow with the strategic studies program, Pant stressed that the globalized nature of conflicts means that no state is isolated from geopolitical shifts. The linkages in trade and supply chains, as seen in India’s case, can cause indirect but substantial impacts of distant conflicts.

The Indian Navy has ramped up surveillance in the region to protect India’s shipping interests and ensure the safety of crew, fleet, and freight. It has already deployed four destroyers of the Project 15A and 15B class, apart from Boeing P8I long-range anti-submarine aircraft, Dorniers, and helicopters for reconnaissance.

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