Houthi militants will face as-yet-unspecified “consequences” if they continue to “threaten lives” and disrupt trade flows in the Red Sea, the United States and a host of international allies said in a new statement Wednesday.
The joint missive — issued simultaneously by the governments of the U.S. Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom — stops short of spelling out how the allies plan to quell mounting turmoil in the Red Sea region.
But it warns that recent events pose “a direct threat” to global trade and constitute “a significant international problem that demands collective action.”
Sailors navigating the narrow Bab-el-Mandeb Strait — on a vital shipping route linking Europe to Asia — have in recent weeks faced drone strikes, missile attacks and hijackings by Iran-backed Houthi militants operating off the coast of Yemen.
The Shia militant group insists it is only targeting shipping with links to Israel in a bid to pressure it to end the war in Gaza. However, the busy trade route from the Suez Canal through the Red Sea has seen dozens of commercial vessels targeted or delayed, forcing Western nations to intervene. In the past week the U.S. Navy destroyed three boats carrying Houthi rebels in the Red Sea after fighters attempted to board a container ship.
Wednesday’s joint statement brands the Houthi attacks “illegal, unacceptable, and profoundly destabilizing.”
“We call for the immediate end of these illegal attacks and release of unlawfully detained vessels and crews. The Houthis will bear the responsibility of the consequences should they continue to threaten lives, the global economy, and free flow of commerce in the region’s critical waterways,” the statement said.
Gabriel Gavin, Antonia Zimmerman and Laura Kayali contributed reporting.