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Sources: The Indian Express 

Context: Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have intensified their attacks on ships in the Red Sea, citing revenge against Israel for its actions in Gaza. This has prompted the US and UK to launch strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen, leading to concerns about a broader regional conflict. The attacks have disrupted global trade routes, raising fears of a significant impact on the world economy.

Red Sea

·         The Red Sea is a semi-enclosed tropical basin, bounded by northeastern Africa, to the west, and the Arabian Peninsula, to the east.

·         The elongated and narrow-shaped basin extends between the Mediterranean Sea, to the northwest, and the Indian Ocean, to the southeast.

·         At the northern end, it separates into the Gulf of Aqaba and the Gulf of Suez, which is connected to the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal.

·         At the southern end, it is connected to the Gulf of Aden, and the outer Indian Ocean, via the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb.

·         It is surrounded by desert or semi-desert areas, with no major freshwater inflow.

Who are the Houthis and the Yemeni Civil War?

Houthi Origins: The Houthi movement, or Ansarallah, emerged in the 1990s under leader Hussein al-Houthi, advocating for Zaidism, a subsect of Shia Islam marginalized after the 1962 civil war. The Yemeni civil war began in 2014 when Houthi forces seized the capital, leading to a wider conflict in 2015 with a Saudi-led coalition attempting to counter them.

Current Humanitarian Crisis: The war has resulted in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with millions in need of aid, widespread displacement, and significant casualties. A 2022 ceasefire lapsed after six months, and efforts to bring a permanent end to the conflict have proven challenging.

Houthi Allies and Power

Iranian Backing: Iran supports the Houthis, providing weapons and technology. The Houthis are part of Iran’s “Axis of Resistance,” along with Hamas and Hezbollah, targeting Israel.

Military Capabilities: Houthi missile capabilities have shown improvements, posing a threat in the Red Sea. Their attacks on ships have forced major shipping and oil companies to suspend transit, impacting global trade.


Motives Behind Red Sea Attacks

Economic Impact on Israel’s Allies: The Houthis aim to inflict economic pain on Israel’s allies by disrupting shipping in the Red Sea, a vital trade route. The attacks could lead to increased costs, affecting global supply chains and potentially causing a shock to the world economy.

Championing the Palestinian Cause: Targeting Israel aligns with the Houthi agenda to gain legitimacy domestically and regionally. It may also strengthen their position in Yemen by countering Arab adversaries.


Global Response

Multinational Efforts: Operation Prosperity Guardian involves over 20 countries deploying naval forces to safeguard shipping in the Red Sea. The UN Security Council has approved a resolution urging the Houthis to cease attacks.

US and UK Strikes: In response to Houthi attacks, the US and UK launched strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen. President Biden emphasized protecting international maritime vessels and the free flow of commerce.

Houthi Defiance: Despite global responses, the Houthis remain defiant, vowing to continue aggression against commercial ships in the Red Sea.


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