By Arab News
By Saeed Al-Batati
Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis on Tuesday promised to strike at US-led Red Sea maritime troops if they sought to prevent the militia from implementing its embargo on all Israel-bound ships.
Mohammed Abdul Sallam, the senior Houthi negotiator, said that the group would continue to block the Red Sea to ships heading to Israel, and would attack any forces that attempted to impede the militia.
He added on X: “Whoever attempts to escalate the confrontation must pay the consequences of his actions, and America’s coalition is to defend Israel and militarize the sea for no reason, and (this) will not prevent Yemen from continuing its lawful activities in support of Gaza.”
The Houthis have fired ballistic missiles and drones at commercial and navy ships believed to be sailing to Israel in the Red Sea. The militia claims that its attacks are intended to force Israel to stop shelling Gaza and help enable food and water supplies to enter the Gaza Strip.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday announced the creation of a multinational force headed by the US to safeguard ships traveling in the Red Sea from Houthi assaults.
Houthi leader Mohammed Al-Bukhaiti has said that international troops will not prevent the militia from targeting ships in the Red Sea.
Al-Bukhaiti said: “Even if America is successful in rallying the whole world, our military operations will continue until the genocidal crimes in Gaza are stopped, and food, medicine, and fuel are permitted to enter (for) its beleaguered people, no matter the sacrifices it costs us.”
The Houthi threats came the day after Aidarous Al-Zubaidi, vice president of Yemen’s internationally recognized Presidential Leadership Council and president of the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council, and senior Yemeni military leaders visited the strategically important island of Mayyun, also known as Perim Island, in the Bab Al-Mandab Strait at the Red Sea’s southern entrance.
Al-Zubaidi was reported as saying that troops “will take part in any multilateral initiative or coalition to safeguard global shipping routes,” apparently contradicting the Defense Ministry’s statement that Yemen will not join the US-led marine forces.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch on Tuesday accused the Houthis of expanding its crackdown on women and human rights activists.
Niku Jafarnia, Yemen and Bahrain researcher at HRW, said that Houthi repression of human rights activists and those seeking women’s rights in northern Yemen had reached “terrifying” levels, citing the case of activist Fatema Saleh Mohammed Al-Arwali, who has been sentenced to death by a Houthi court on spying charges.
Jafarnia said in a statement: “The Houthis are slowly making life unlivable for both women and human rights defenders in their territories.”
She added that the Houthis should “immediately give Fatema a fair trial and should end their widespread repression of women and human rights defenders in their territories.”
Al-Arwali’s family, which is based in the UAE, told the human rights group that the Houthis had kidnapped her, mistreated her, and refused her medicine. They added that they were afraid to return home because of the Houthis’ retaliation.
Mohammed, Al-Arwali’s brother, told HRW: “My mother … She is an old woman watching her only daughter be detained, tortured, and sentenced to death, and the family’s children are shocked by what has happened.
“The whole family is scared now about what will happen to Fatema, as well (as) what will happen to us if we go home (to Yemen).”
Al-Arwali was kidnapped by the Houthis in August 2022 at a checkpoint in Taiz’s Hawban and taken to Sanaa, where she was held for months before being tried. She was condemned to death by a Houthi-run court in Sanaa earlier this month for allegedly working with the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen.
HRW has asked the Houthis to reverse the ruling and cease persecuting free speech and women’s rights activists.