Houthi Rebels: Reasons for Red Sea Ship Attacks.

The Red Sea has become a site of increased tension in recent months, as drone and rocket attacks on cargo ships have caused many of the world’s biggest shipping companies to announce they will avoid the area. The Houthis, an armed group from a sub-sect of Yemen’s Shia Muslim minority, the Zaidis, declared their support for Hamas and said they would target any ship travelling to Israel. Although it is not certain that all of the ships attacked were actually heading there, the US has responded by launching an international naval operation to protect ships, with countries such as the UK, Canada, France, Bahrain, Norway and Spain joining the mission.

Major shipping firms including Mediterranean Shipping Company, Maersk, Hapag-Lloyd and the oil company BP have all declared that they will be diverting their vessels away from the Red Sea. The White House has accused Iran of being “deeply involved” in planning operations against commercial vessels in the area. This accusation is in line with Iran’s long-term support and encouragement of the Houthis’ destabilizing actions in the region.

The Houthis have been fighting a civil war with Yemen’s government since 2014, with the government being backed by a coalition of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Iran is suspected of supplying the Houthi rebels with weapons, and the US believes Iranian intelligence is integral to the rebels’ ability to target ships. The official government of Yemen is the Presidential Leadership Council, to which President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi transferred his powers in April 2022. The Houthi rebels control most of the Yemeni population and their territory includes Sanaa and the Red Sea coastline.

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