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Houthi official promises safe passage for Russian and Chinese ships

Houthi official promises safe passage for Russian and Chinese ships

MOSCOW – A senior Houthi official has promised safe passage for Russian and Chinese vessels through the Red Sea, where the Iran-backed Yemeni rebel group has been carrying out attacks on commercial ships in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

In an interview published by Russian outlet Izvestia on Jan 19, senior Houthi official Mohammed al-Bukhaiti insisted the waters around Yemen, which some shipping firms are avoiding due to the ongoing aggression, were safe so long as vessels were not linked to certain countries, particularly Israel.

“As for all other countries, including Russia and China, their shipping in the region is not threatened,” he said.

“Moreover, we are ready to ensure the safe passage of their ships in the Red Sea, because free navigation plays a significant role for our country.”

Attacks on vessels “in any way connected with Israel” would continue, he added.

The Iran-backed rebels have recently said US- and British-linked ships were also fair game after the two countries launched air strikes in Yemen in response to the repeated attacks.

The Houthis claimed early on Jan 19 another attack on a US ship after the United States launched fresh strikes on rebel targets the day before.

The Houthis have launched numerous attacks in the vital shipping lanes around Yemen since the war in Gaza erupted on Oct 7 with Hamas’ bloody attack on Israel.

In Jan 19’s interview, Bukhaiti said the blame for the shipping attacks rested with the vessels that ignored Houthi orders to change course.

“Ansar Allah does not pursue the goal of capturing or sinking this or that sea vessel,” he said, using the group’s official name.

“Our goal is to raise the economic costs for the Jewish state in order to stop the carnage in Gaza.”

Bukhaiti defended his group’s capture in November of the Galaxy Leader – a merchant vessel linked to an Israeli businessman – as “a precautionary step for everyone else to follow our requirements”.

The ship’s crew, who are still being held, “are fine, and we are giving them a warm welcome”, he added.

While the Houthis insist their attacks only target vessels of certain nationalities, a US Navy commander has said the ships involved actually have ties to dozens of countries. AFP

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