The United States and 12 allies issued a final warning on Wednesday, asking them to cease their attacks on vessels in the Red Sea or face targeted military action, as reported by news agency AP. The Houthi rebels have carried out at least 23 attacks in response to the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza since December 19.
According to AP, a senior official of the Joe Biden administration declined to give details pertaining to the rules of possible engagement in case the attacks continue. The official, however, highlighted that the Iranian-backed Houthis should “not anticipate another warning” from the U.S. and its allies.
The official, who spoke to AP on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the White House, spoke soon after the countries issued a joint statement earlier on Wednesday condemning the attacks and underscoring that international patience was strained.
The joint statement was signed by the United States, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. Separately, the U.S. called on the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday to take action against the Houthis, as reported by AP.
In the statement, the countries also warned Iran that it has a choice to make about continuing to provide support to the rebels. “Let our message now be clear: we call for the immediate end of these illegal attacks and the release of unlawfully detained vessels and crews,” the countries said, as quoted by AP.
“The Houthis will bear the responsibility of the consequences should they continue to threaten lives, the global economy, and the free flow of commerce in the region’s critical waterways,” they further stated. For weeks, the Houthis have claimed attacks on ships in the Red Sea that they say are either linked to Israel or heading to Israeli ports.
The attacks by rebels aimed to end the Israeli air-and-ground offensive in the Gaza Strip that was triggered by the Palestinian militant group Hamas’ October 7 attack in southern Israel. However, the links to the ships targeted in the Houthi assaults have grown more tenuous as the attacks continue.