Joint Warning To Houthis: Cease Attacks Or Face Consequences

A dozen nations on Wednesday issued a joint warning to the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen, demanding that they cease attacking commercial shipping in the Red Sea. The warning, however, does not specify what actions will be taken should these attacks continue. There have been 24 since Nov. 19, according to U.S. Central Command.

“We call for the immediate end of these illegal attacks and release of unlawfully detained vessels and crews” the U.S., Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom demanded in the joint statement published by the White House Wednesday. “The Houthis will bear the responsibility of the consequences should they continue to threaten lives, the global economy, and free flow of commerce in the region’s critical waterways. We remain committed to the international rules-based order and are determined to hold malign actors accountable for unlawful seizures and attacks.”

“Ongoing Houthi attacks in the Red Sea are illegal, unacceptable, and profoundly destabilizing. There is no lawful justification for intentionally targeting civilian shipping and naval vessels. Attacks on vessels, including commercial vessels, using unmanned aerial vehicles, small boats, and missiles, including the first use of anti-ship ballistic missiles against such vessels, are a direct threat to the freedom of navigation that serves as the bedrock of global trade in one of the world’s most critical waterways,” the warning stated.

While the warning does not lay out the next steps, as we noted previously, The Sunday Times reported that the U.K. is readying a series of air strikes alongside the U.S. and possibly other European countries. The joint statement, which the Sunday Times said would be released in hours, not days, would serve as a final warning before strikes are ordered.

Warships from the U.S., U.K. and France have already shot down many Houthi missiles and drones heading towards shipping in the southern Red Sea region. U.S. Navy helicopters have also sunk Houthi boats that opened fire on them.

As we reported previously, the U.S. is “discussing all kinds of different strike packages against the Houthis, including radar facilities and installations,” a U.S. military official told The War Zone Dec. 21. The official told us on Wednesday that those options have been delivered by CENTCOM to the Pentagon and are still awaiting further orders.

It remains unclear what role, if any, the newly formed Operation Prosperity Guardian (OPG) would have in this effort. OPG is a multi-nation effort to protect Red Sea shipping created under the command of the existing Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) Task Force 153.

We have reached out to the Pentagon and White House National Security Council for answers about what responses are on the table and will update this story with any information provided.

The Houthis began attacking Red Sea shipping in the wake of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. The Houthis have said they are standing up for “our brothers in the Gaza Strip.”

This is a developing story. We will provide updates as new information comes to light.

Update 5:09 PM Eastern –

A senior Biden administration official told reporters, including from The War Zone, that today’s joint warning was the last such message to be delivered to the Houthis.

“I’m not gonna get into rules of engagement or any anticipatory further action,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity to address operational details. “I would just say that I would not anticipate another warning. This statement speaks very much for itself. And we have acted defensively. And again, I think it’s a very clear warning. We’re gonna let the statement stand for itself. And I’m just not going to get ahead of the process from here.”

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Howard Altman

Senior Staff Writer

Howard is a Senior Staff Writer for The War Zone, and a former Senior Managing Editor for Military Times. Prior to this, he covered military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times as a Senior Writer. Howard's work has appeared in various publications including Yahoo News, RealClearDefense, and Air Force Times.