January 05, 2024 : In a continued show of defiance, Houthi rebels detonated a drone boat loaded with explosives in the Red Sea on Thursday. Fortunately, the U.S. Navy reported no damage or casualties resulting from the attack. This incident follows a joint statement issued by 12 nations, including the U.S., Britain, and Japan, cautioning the Houthis about potential “consequences” unless they halt their attacks. The warning, described by a U.S. official as a final one, had little impact on the rebel group’s actions.
The Iran-aligned Houthis, controlling a significant portion of Yemen, have been launching a series of explosive drones and missiles at commercial vessels since November 19. They claim their actions are a protest against Israel’s military operations in Gaza. The relentless Houthi campaign has severely disrupted international shipping, leading some companies to opt for longer and costlier routes around Africa instead of transiting the Red Sea.
Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, leading U.S. Naval forces in the Middle East, revealed that the Houthi drone boat traveled about 50 miles into the Red Sea before detonating in dense shipping lanes. The attack came dangerously close to merchant ships and U.S. Navy vessels, emphasizing the unpredictable nature of the situation.
Cooper disclosed that there have been 25 Houthi attacks against merchant vessels in the southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Despite international pressure, there are no signs of the group’s irresponsible behavior diminishing.
Pressure is mounting on President Joe Biden to respond militarily, but the administration remains hesitant, fearing an escalation of regional tensions. Retired four-star Marine general Frank McKenzie criticized the administration’s response as “tentative” and “unfocused,” advocating for a reset of deterrence through a more assertive approach.
Operation Prosperity Guardian, launched by the United States and other nations to protect civilian vessels, has seen contributions from 22 countries. U.S. warships and partners have successfully intercepted cruise missiles, anti-ship ballistic missiles, and drones. The coalition aims to maintain a defensive posture, with no plans for offensive strikes against Houthi positions.
While the Houthis claim their attacks target vessels with Israeli links or heading to Israel, the affected ships have direct connections to 55 countries, according to Cooper. The international community calls for an immediate cessation of Houthi attacks, labeling them as destabilizing and in violation of international law. The situation in the Red Sea is deemed to have reached an “inflection point,” according to a U.S. representative at the United Nations.