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Houthis warn Saudi Arabia of retaliation if it backs US attacks

The Yemen-based Houthi militants renewed their threats against Saudi Arabia, warning it not to support U.S. strikes against the group.

“We have sent a message to Saudi Arabia that it will be a target if it allows American fighter jets to use its territory or airspace in their aggression on Yemen,” Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, a member of the Houthis’ Supreme Political Council, said in an interview with Al-Masirah TV.

U.S. and U.K. forces have been striking Houthi military facilities since the start of this year to stem the group’s assault on ships in the Red Sea, a vital waterway for global commerce.

Saudi Arabia, which borders Yemen, hasn’t joined those air assaults or a U.S.-led naval operation meant to provide commercial ships safe passage through the southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The kingdom is trying to reach a peace agreement with the Houthis to end Yemen’s civil war, a conflict that’s raged for most of the past decade but with the sides in a fragile truce since 2022.

The Saudi government led a U.S.-backed military campaign against the Houthis starting in 2015. But it now sees peace in Yemen as key to keeping the wider Gulf region stable and advancing its massive economic transformation plans.

Before the truce, the Houthis regularly struck Saudi territory. In 2019, they claimed an assault that briefly knocked out about half the kingdom’s oil production.

The Houthis, an Islamist organization backed by Iran, have been undeterred by the U.S. and U.K. airstrikes and continue to attack warships and commercial ships with missiles and drones on a near-daily basis.

They recently said they would expand their campaign to target ships avoiding the Red Sea and sailing around southern Africa instead.

Al-Houthi signaled more tense relations between the Houthis and Saudis by saying the kingdom needed to take more serious steps toward a peace plan.

He stressed negotiations can’t progress until the kingdom agrees to resume the payment of some salaries, electricity and other services in Yemen.

Al-Houthi also confirmed the group had given China and Russia assurances their ships wouldn’t be targeted.

Speaking to Al-Masirah TV, a channel run by the group, he didn’t mention the Huang Pu, a Chinese-owned oil tanker that was struck by a missile in the Red Sea on Saturday. The ship issued a distress call but suffered minimal damage and didn’t need assistance, according to the U.S. military.

The Houthis appear to have wrongly identified several ships with their previous assaults and it’s unclear if they did so again with the Huang Pu.

Source: Miami Herald