Jan 10, 2024 - World

UN Security Council calls on Houthis to halt attacks on shipping in the Red Sea

This handout screen grab captured from a video shows Yemen's Houthi fighters' takeover of the Galaxy Leader Cargo in the Red Sea coast off Hudaydah, on November 20,

This handout screen grab captured from a video shows Yemen's Houthi fighters' takeover of the Galaxy Leader cargo ship in the Red Sea coast off Hudaydah. Photo: Screengrab/Houthi Movement via Getty Images

The UN Security Council adopted a U.S.-led resolution on Wednesday demanding the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen immediately halt their attacks on merchant and commercial ships in the Red Sea.

Driving the news: The attacks "impede global commerce and undermine navigational rights and freedoms as well as regional peace and security," reads the resolution, which passed 11-0 with four abstentions.

  • The nations that abstained included Russia, China, Mozambique and Algeria.

Details: The resolution condemns at least two dozen Houthi attacks on merchant and commercial vessels since mid-November.

  • It also calls on the Houthis to free the 25 crew members of the Galaxy Leader, a Japanese ship with links to an Israeli businessman that the rebel group seized in November.

The big picture: The attacks have significantly hampered the freedom of navigation in one of the world's main commercial shipping routes and led to a rise in prices globally.

  • The Houthis have said they began the attacks in an effort to get the Israeli military to halt its offensive in Gaza, which began after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

State of play: U.S. officials have said the Biden administration has been considering for several weeks taking military action against the Houthis, but President Biden has been hesitant to do so. That's in part because of concerns it could drag the U.S. further into the crisis militarily and fears it could hurt the Yemen peace process.

  • Instead, the administration focused on building an international coalition of countries and a multinational naval task force aimed at trying to deter the Houthis.
  • But the Houthis have continued their attacks, including on Tuesday when they launched their largest drone and missile attack so far as commercial ships were passing through the Red Sea area.
  • The U.S. and British navies shot down 18 drones, two anti-ship cruise missiles and one anti-ship ballistic missile late Tuesday local time, the U.S. Central Command said in a statement. No injuries were reported.

A senior U.S. official, speaking to Axios, admitted the statement the U.S. and a dozen other countries issued last week as a last warning to the Houthis didn't work to deter the rebels.

  • The official said that while preparing options for military action, the U.S. wants to build an international coalition against the Houthis and the UN Security Council resolution is a key part of that effort.
  • "Whatever we do is better as part of a coalition for many reasons. Most importantly it should be clear this is a multilateral effort to maintain freedom of navigation for commercial shipping and not some unilateral action by the U.S. on Israel's behalf," the official said.
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