Houthis Announce “Fourth Stage of Escalation,” Expand Targeting of Commercial Vessels Heading to Israeli Ports

In response to what is likely an impending military assault on the Gazan city of Rafah by Israeli forces, the Houthis have announced that they will begin to target any vessels heading to Israeli ports in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Statement

In a speech, military spokesman Yahya Sare’e announced that Houthi forces will implement a “fourth stage of escalation,” which includes “the targeting of all ships that violate the ban decision of Israeli navigation and that heading to the ports of occupied Palestine from the Mediterranean Sea in any reachable area within our ample zone.”

“If the Israeli enemy intends to launch an aggressive military operation against Rafah, the Yemeni Armed forces will impose comprehensive sanctions on all ships and companies that are related to supplying and entering the occupied Palestinian ports of any nationality and will prevent all ships of these companies from passing through the armed forces’ operation zone, regardless of their destination,” Sare’e added.

Like with most statements made by the Houthis, it concluded by saying that they “will not hesitate to prepare for broader and stronger stages of escalation until the aggression is stopped and the siege on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip is lifted.”

The Lead Up

Following the November 2023 seizure of the Bahamian-flagged RoRo vessel “Galaxy Leader” in the Red Sea, which is considered to be the start of Houthi’s involvement in the Israeli conflict, Sare’e stated that “all ships belonging to the Israeli enemy or dealing with it that they will become a legitimate target for the armed forces.”

This initially included any Israeli-flagged vessels or vessels that were in some way managed or owned by an Israeli entity, such as the Galaxy Leader, which is owned by Ray Car Carriers, which itself is owned by Israeli business mogul Abraham Ungar. Soon after, any vessel that were heading to or from Israel would be considered a target.

The Houthis then began to target American and British owned or operated vessels starting in mid January 2024 following coalition strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen.

By March 2024, the Houthis announced that they would begin to target vessels “across the Indian Ocean and from South Africa towards the Cape of Good Hope,” however, attacks against vessels have only been carried out in the Red Sea or Gulf of Aden so far.

So What

The expansion of Houthi operations would mark another escalation of the group’s involvement in the conflict, which comes as they also took part in Iran’s retaliatory missile and drone attack against Israel last month.

The announcement, however, should be viewed with some skepticism as a Houthi missile attack against a vessel in the Mediterranean would require the missile to pass over Israeli airspace at least, with it also being likely to cross into Egyptian, Saudi, or Jordanian airspace. Such an event would likely see a shoot down, as evident by Iran’s recent barrage that saw an overwhelming majority of projectiles intercepted.

Realistically (and very unlikely), the targeting of vessels in the Mediterranean would be done more effectively by Hezbollah in Lebanon, who have both the capability and regional proximity to do so with a decreased chance of interception, although it would likely drawn an international reaction that they are unwilling to afford.

Unbiased & Unfiltered News Reporting for 12+ years. Covering Geo-Political conflicts, wartime events, and vital Breaking News from around the world. Editor-In-Chief of Atlas News.


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