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Yemen rebels threaten Israel-bound Red Sea ships

Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen on Saturday threatened to attack vessels heading to Israeli ports unless food and medicine are allowed into Gaza.

Published December 09,2023

Yemen's Iran-backed Huthi rebels on Saturday threatened to attack vessels heading to Israeli ports unless food and medicine is allowed into the besieged Gaza Strip.

The latest warning comes amid heightened tensions in the Red Sea and surrounding waters following a series of maritime attacks by Huthi rebels since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7.

In a statement posted on social media, the Huthis said they "will prevent the passage of ships heading to the Zionist entity" if humanitarian aid is not allowed into Hamas-ruled Gaza.

The Huthis have recently attacked ships they claim to have direct links to Israel, but their latest threat expands the scope of their targets.

Regardless of which flag ships sail under or the nationality of their owners or operators, Israel-bound vessels "will become a legitimate target for our armed forces", the statement said.

Last week, the Huthis attacked two ships off the Yemeni coast, including a Bahamas-flagged vessel, claiming they were Israeli owned.

And last month, the rebel forces seized Galaxy Leader, an Israeli-linked cargo vessel.

"We warn all ships and companies against dealing with Israeli ports," the latest Huthi statement said.

It added that all "ships linked to Israel or that will transport goods to Israeli ports" are not welcome in the Red Sea, a vital channel for global trade linked to the Suez Canal.

Beyond maritime attacks, the Huthis have launched a series of drone and missile strikes targeting Israel since deadly attacks by Palestinian armed group Hamas triggered all-out war.

The militants on October 7 poured over the border into Israel, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping about 240, according to Israeli officials.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas and launched a military offensive in Gaza that has killed at least 17,700 people, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

The spike in maritime incidents prompted G7 foreign ministers at a meeting earlier this month to urge the rebels to cease threats to international shipping and to release the Galaxy Leader.