Houthi rebels threaten to block Red Sea shipping lane

The strategically important Red Sea shipping lane is once again under threat after Yemen’s armed Houthi movement threatened to block the lane if the Saudi-led coalition it is fighting kept up its push towards the port of Hodeidah, currently controlled by the Houthis, said Houthi-run SABA news agency.

SABA gave no details on how Houthis could implement a blockade, but the Bab al-Mandab strait, where the Red Sea meets the Gulf of Aden in the Arabian Sea, is only 12 miles wide

“If the aggressors keep pushing towards Hodeidah and if the political solution hits wall, there are some strategic choices that will be taken as a no return point, including blocking the international navigation in the Red Sea,” said Houthis’ Ansarullah political council chief, Saleh al-Samad, adding that “their ships pass by our waters while our people starve”.

Yemen is the site of a proxy war between the Houthi armed movement, which is backed by Iran, and a US-backed military coalition headed by Saudi Arabia. The Saudi-led coalition has been trying since the start of the war in March 2015 to capture Hodeidah, which is Yemen’s biggest port and which receives 80% of Yemen’s imports. In recent weeks it has launched a ground campaign and intensified air strikes.