Skip to main content

War on Gaza: Houthis promise more attacks on British ships

Warning comes after British ship struck by missile from Yemeni group confirmed sunk
Yemenis brandish weapons in the Houthi-run capital Sanaa on 1 March 2024, in support of Palestinians (Mohammed Huwais/AFP)

Yemen's Houthi rebels have promised to sink more British ships as they continue to threaten Middle Eastern waterways in retaliation for Israel's war on Gaza.

The warning came as the US military confirmed on Saturday that the UK-owned vessel Rubymar had sunk after being struck by a Houthi anti-ship missile on 18 February.

The Houthi movement, also known as Ansar Allah, has risen to global prominence for its attacks on commercial and military shipping, in what it says is a response to Israel's invasion of Gaza.

One of the Houthi's first acts in November was the seizure by helicopter of the Galaxy Leader, a Bahamas-flagged commercial vessel owned by Israeli business tycoon Rami Ungar.

Since then, the Houthis have broadened their attacks from vessels linked to Israel to commercial and military ships with any ties to the US and UK, in response to US-led air strikes against the group.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


"Yemen will continue to sink more British ships, and any repercussions or other damages will be added to Britain's bill, as it is a rogue state that attacks Yemen and [it] partners with America in sponsoring the ongoing crime against civilians in Gaza," Hussein al-Ezzi, the Houthi's deputy foreign minister, said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, on Sunday.

"You can't mess around in my country and then go spend your evening at Fabric," he added, apparently referring to a nightclub in London. "Whoever harms Yemen, we will harm him too."

War on Gaza: Could unmanned submarines be a gamechanger for the Houthis?
Read More »

According to the International Monetary Fund, container shipping through the Red Sea dropped by around one-third in the first week of 2024 compared with the same period last year as shipping companies avoided the Suez Canal.

On Sunday, Italy's defence ministry said a navy destroyer shot down a drone that was approaching it in the Red Sea.

"In accordance with the principle of legitimate defence, the ship Duilio shot down a drone in the Red Sea" on Saturday, the ministry said in a statement.

"The drone, bearing similar features to those already used in previous attacks, was located six kilometres (about four miles) from the Italian ship and was flying towards it."

US strikes against the Houthis have done little to deter the group, and western officials familiar with the matter have told MEE on condition of anonymity that they don't expect the Houthis to change their actions in response to the strikes.

The Iran-aligned group endured years of heavy bombardment by a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia. The Houthis weathered the strikes and displayed their ability to leverage Iranian training and arms to strike as far as Dubai.

Saudi Arabia is now trying to negotiate a ceasefire to the civil war that would cement the Houthi hold over most populated parts of Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.