Houthi supporters raise rifles and shout anti-US-UK slogans during a tribal rally on January 14, 2024 on the outskirts of Sanaa, Yemen.
Mohamed Hammoud | Getty Images
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Yemen’s Houthi rebels “enthusiastically confront America directly,” the group’s leader said in a televised address, pledging to continue the group’s campaign of attacks on ships in the Red Sea until the blockade of Gaza is lifted by Israel.
The remarks came as the US ramps up its strikes on Houthi targets and before President Joe Biden admitted to reporters that so far, his administration’s military action has not had the intended effect.
“When you say work, do they stop the Houthis?” Biden said in an exchange with reporters in Washington: “No. Will they continue? Yes”. The White House has been redefined the Houthis as a terrorist organization on January 17, after the group was delisted in 2021.
The US launched its fifth airstrike against Houthi targets in Yemen late Thursday night, with US jets targeting anti-ship missiles that the US Central Command said were “targeted in the southern Red Sea and ready to launch”.
As if to confirm Biden’s comments, the Iranian-backed rebel group within hours fired two anti-ship ballistic missiles at a US-owned tanker. The vessel, a small chemical tanker called the Chem Ranger, reported no injuries or damage to the vessel.
It is “a great honor and a blessing to face America directly,” Houthi leader Abdul-Malek al-Houthi said in his provocative, hour-long speech that drew heavily on religious rhetoric. He claimed that the US and UK strikes in Yemen only sharpened his military’s technology and that it proved the Houthi strategy – targeting Israeli ships or those coming to or from Israel – was working.
The Houthi actions have certainly worked to disrupt transport and maritime trade in the region: major shipping companies have suspended all transport in the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, choosing instead to sail to the African continent, creating significant delays and congestion in supply and costing companies billions of dollars.
Al Houthi also took a personal swipe at the US president, mocking Biden as “an old man who struggles to climb the stairs of an airplane, but travels 9,000 miles to attack those who wanted to stand with the oppressed people of Gaza.”
The Biden administration along with the UK government began retaliating against the Houthis, who control most of Yemen, on January 12 after the group spent several weeks carrying out dozens of attacks on ships crossing the Red Sea. Yemeni rebels say their campaign is a response to Israel’s relentless shelling of the Gaza Strip and US support for it.
The Houthi leader vowed to continue attacks until Israel lifts the blockade of Gaza, saying “nothing – not all the threats, the rockets, the pressure – will change our position.”
Israel’s offensive against Gaza began when Hamas militants from the Palestinian enclave launched a terror attack in southern Israel that killed around 1,200 people and took another 240 hostages, of whom 136 people remain captive.
The Israeli response, which has included a full siege of the already blockaded territory and daily aerial bombardments, has killed more than 24,000 people and caused severe disruptions to food supplies, according to Gaza’s Hamas health ministry.
Read the original at Defence247.gr