Houthis Warn Italy Over US Clashes, Demand Neutrality in Israel-Palestine Conflict

Amid a wave of strikes by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis against ships operating in the Red Sea, a senior official from the rebel group warned that if Italy takes part in future attacks against the region, it will become a target. The leader of the Houthis’ supreme revolutionary committee, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, emphasized to La Repubblica that Italy should maintain a neutral stance in the conflict. He called for Italy to exert pressure on Israel to cease its attacks on Gaza. Additionally, al-Houthi urged European nations to back a UN-led initiative aimed at achieving a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, asserting that this approach is the sole path towards establishing peace in the region.

The remarks by al-Houthi were published a day after the U.S., backed by allies including Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and South Korea, vowed further action against the Houthis after they attacked commercial shipping. The strikes targeted command and control nodes, munitions depots, launching systems, production facilities, and air defense radars that the Houthis use to attack vessels in international waters. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin monitored the strikes in real time and consulted with his counterparts at CENTCOM, the Pentagon’s central command unit, for an initial post-strike assessment.

In a statement on the media platform X, formerly Twitter, the United States’ top commander in the Middle East, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., and the head of CENTCOM, Air Force Gen. Michael E. Kurilla, said the American-led coalition has been enforcing maritime law in the Red Sea and will not be intimidated by Houthis’ threats to disrupt global commerce in the region. The joint statement emphasized that the United States is not seeking war with the Houthis or their supporters but that the allies will not hesitate to defend the safety of maritime traffic in the region.

Ansar Allah, the name for the Houthis, began as a theological movement that preached tolerance and peace in the 1990s but has since transformed into a radical Islamist military and political organization. The Houthis, who are primarily drawn from the Zaidi Shia sect of Shia Islam, have been fighting Yemen’s government for more than a decade.

While some of the Houthi attacks on merchant vessels have been accidental, others were deliberate and could be considered piracy or an act of war, according to a legal expert on Yemen. If they continue to target shipping in the Red Sea, the Houthis could be subjected to a variety of international sanctions, according to the U.N. Security Council resolution imposing the sanctions. Amid the threat of a broader conflict, oil prices jumped more than $2 on Friday after concerns that supplies could be disrupted. The price later gave up some of the gains. Brent crude prices have spiked more than $7 per barrel since the attacks. The White House has said it would take further steps to impose more sanctions if necessary.

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