Retaliation Threatened as American and British Strikes Escalate Conflict in Yemen

Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Yemen’s Houthi rebels have pledged to retaliate fiercely for recent American and British strikes against them. This raises concerns of a wider conflict in a region already grappling with Israel’s war in Gaza. The airstrikes were launched in response to a series of drone and missile attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea. According to the Houthis, the bombardment resulted in the death of at least five people and injured six others. The strikes focused attention once again on Yemen’s ongoing war, which began when the Houthis seized the country’s capital.

Since November, the rebels have targeted ships in the Red Sea in retaliation for Israel’s offensive against Hamas in Gaza. However, these attacks have often affected vessels that have little to no connection to Israel, causing disruptions to global trade and energy shipments. Despite attempts by the Biden administration and its allies to ease tensions in the Middle East and prevent a wider conflict, these strikes have the potential to escalate the situation.

Saudi Arabia, which supports the Yemeni government-in-exile that the Houthis are fighting, quickly distanced itself from the attacks as it seeks to maintain a delicate balance with Iran and the ceasefire it has in place in Yemen. In response, the Houthis’ military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree, warned that the strikes would not go unanswered or unpunished.

The Red Sea route is a vital waterway, and attacks in this region have caused significant disruptions to global trade. As a result of the recent strikes, the price of Benchmark Brent crude oil increased by approximately 4% to over $80 per barrel. Additionally, Tesla announced that it would temporarily halt most production at its German factory due to the attacks in the Red Sea.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy confirmed an attack on a ship in the Indian Ocean, indicating Iran’s possible involvement in striking vessels as part of a broader maritime campaign related to the Israel-Hamas conflict. Tehran also seized another tanker separately. In northwest Yemen, the Houthis’ stronghold, hundreds of people gathered for a rally denouncing the U.S. and Israel, while thousands attended another rally in the capital, Sanaa.

The war in Yemen began in 2014 when the Houthis captured Sanaa. A Saudi-led coalition, with support from the United Arab Emirates, launched a military intervention in 2015 to back Yemen’s exiled government. The conflict quickly escalated into a regional confrontation as Iran provided the Houthis with weapons and other support. While efforts have been made to mitigate the conflict, an overall resolution has yet to be reached.

In light of the airstrikes, Saudi Arabia expressed “great concern” and called for restraint and de-escalation. Iran condemned the attacks, stating that arbitrary strikes will only fuel insecurity and instability in the region. China also urged nations to avoid escalating tensions in the Red Sea, while Oman condemned the airstrikes and expressed concerns about Israel’s actions in Gaza.

In a separate incident, the U.S. Navy confirmed an attack on the chemical tanker Pacific Gold near the coasts of India and Sri Lanka. The vessel was struck by an Iranian one-way attack drone, causing some damage but no injuries. The Pacific Gold is managed by Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping, which is controlled by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer. Iran has not claimed responsibility for the attack.

The situation in Yemen and the broader Middle East remains highly volatile and complex. It is essential for all parties involved to exercise restraint and seek peaceful resolutions to avoid further escalation and damage to regional stability.