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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - NEW YORK — The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday approved a resolution calling on Yemen’s Houthi rebel group to “cease its brazen” attacks in the Red Sea, as the United States and Britain hinted at military strikes.
The warnings come as the Iran-backed militants continue a weeks-long campaign to launch drones and missiles at vessels in the commercially vital shipping lane, which they say are revenge against Israel for its military campaign in Gaza.
The UN Security Council vote was 11 in favor, 0 against, and four abstentions, including Russia and China.
Earlier Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned “there will be consequences” for the continued Houthi attacks, as he makes a diplomatic tour of the region to try to cool tensions.
The US and other nations have a number of ships in the Red Sea as part of Operation Prosperity Guardian, a multinational effort consisting of more than 20 countries to safeguard shipping in one of the world’s most critical waterways.
US Navy warships have shot down many of the Houthi projectiles in recent weeks, including a particularly sustained barrage of attacks on Tuesday.
The war in Gaza has fueled fears of a wider regional conflict – with the narrow but vital Red Sea a potential flashpoint.
The UN resolution condemned some two dozen Houthi attacks on merchant vessels since November 19, when the Houthis attacked and seized the commercial vessel, Galaxy Leader.
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield blamed Iran for helping the Houthis, emphasizing that the resolution demands the group stop violating international law.
“The United States applauds today’s adoption by the United Nations Security Council of a resolution co-penned by the United States and Japan condemning Houthi attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea,” she said in a statement Wednesday.
“The resolution unequivocally demands that the Houthis cease their attacks and underscores the Council’s support for navigational rights and freedoms of vessels of all States in the Red Sea in accordance with international law.”
The Houthis have said they will only relent when Israel allows the entry of food and medicine into Gaza; the group’s strikes could be intended to inflict economic pain on Israel’s allies in the hope they will pressure it to cease its bombardment of the enclave.
Responding to the UN vote, Mohamed Ali al-Houthi, member of the Supreme Political Council and former head of Yemen’s Houthi Supreme Revolutionary Committee, said the group’s actions were justified.
He argued that what “the Yemeni armed forces are doing comes within the framework of legitimate defense,” and that along with Israel, the US and Britain are violating international law in their response to the war in Gaza.
The besieged Palestinian coastal enclave has been enveloped by a humanitarian crisis since the outbreak of war more than three months ago. More than 23,000 people have been killed in Israeli attacks in the strip since October 7, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza.
The ministry does not distinguish between civilians and combatants, but both the ministry in Gaza and its counterpart in the occupied West Bank suggest that approximately 70% of those killed or injured are women and children.
The US has repeatedly urged Israel to protect civilians as it targets Hamas, but in December abstained from a UN Security Council vote calling for humanitarian pauses in the war because it did not include a condemnation of the Islamist militant group.
There have been at least 26 Houthi attacks since November 19, threatening the global economy by preventing shipping through the Red Sea and Suez Canal to the north.
US Navy helicopters sank three Houthi boats in the Red Sea after coming under fire on December 31 as they aided a commercial ship, the Maersk Hangzhou. The crews of the Houthi boats were killed.
The passing of the UN resolution also comes after the US and British navies shot down 21 Houthi missiles and drones launched from Yemen on Tuesday, according to a statement from US Central Command, in one of the largest Houthi attacks to take place in the Red Sea in recent months.
A Houthi military spokesperson, Yahya Saree, said Tuesday’s attack was a “coordinated offensive” targeting an American ship “aiding” Israel in the Red Sea and was in response to a “treacherous attack” by US forces on Houthi naval units on last week.
Three US guided-missile destroyers and F/A-18 fighter jets from the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower took part in the combined effort to shoot down the missiles and drones Tuesday, according to US Central Command.
An air defense destroyer from the UK’s Royal Navy, the HMS Diamond, was also involved, according to British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps, who warned that “we will take the action needed to protect innocent lives and the global economy.”
“The UK alongside allies have previously made clear that these illegal attacks are completely unacceptable, and if continued the Houthis will bear the consequences,” Shapps said. — CNN
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