The Biden White House is threatening to slap an official terror designation on Yemen’s Houthi militia after it seized an Israel-linked cargo vessel in the Red Sea (details below).
On Tuesday, as 25 international crew members are still being held hostage after Houthi militants boarded the vessel by helicopter on Sunday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that “in light of… the piracy of a ship in international waters, we have begun a review of potential terrorist designations and we’ll be considering other options together with our allies and partners as well.”
Importantly, Kirby also directly alleged that Iran was complicit. The Houthis have expressly said that the seizure was in retaliation for Israel’s onslaught on Gaza, which has killed some 13,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians. Per a White House press briefing:
The Houthis earlier this month declared war on Israel and have sent several drones and missiles towards southern Israel at this point. At least two of these projectiles have been intercepted by warships stationed in the Red Sea.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels have released dramatic video of their Sunday hijacking of the Galaxy Leader, a vehicle-transport ship whose owner is a subsidiary of a company owned by an Israeli billionaire.
The ship is still in their control, with 25 crew members of various nationalities held hostage and the vessel now in the Yemeni port of Hodeidah.
The Red Sea incident received surprisingly little initial coverage by major media, considering it marked the opening of a new maritime front in the multilateral regional conflict that erupted on October 7, when Palestinian Hamas militants invaded southern Lebanon, killing more than a thousand Israeli civilians and soldiers.
The Iran-aligned Houthis, who’ve been battling Yemen’s Saudi-backed government since 2014, had already launched multiple drone and missile attacks on Israel in solidarity with Hamas and the people of Gaza. In announcing their seizure of the Galaxy Leader, the group said, “All ships belonging to the Israeli enemy or that deal with it will become legitimate targets.”
“The detention of the Israeli ship is a practical step that proves the seriousness of the Yemeni armed forces in waging the sea battle, regardless of its costs,” said Houthi chief negotiator Mohammed Abdul-Salam in a separate online statement. “This is the beginning.” About a fifth of the world’s oil must traverse the narrow strait between Yemen and Djibouti.
The professionally produced, nearly four-minute Houthi video appears to have been shot from multiple cameras in the air and on the sea, including one mounted on the tail of a helicopter used to airlift the attackers onto the ship and others worn by the militants in action.
It first shows a helicopter pursuing the 600-foot ship as it ploughs through the sea. Houthis then dismantled the chopper atop the ship’s deck, fired AK-47 rifles, and made their way to the ship’s bridge, where crew members surrendered to them. In the final shot, the ship is moving through the water, surrounded by several small watercraft.