The United States, the UK, the European Union, France, the Arab Interior Ministers Council, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation condemned the January 2 hijacking of a merchant ship by the Houthis off the coast of Hudaydah, Yemen.
The vessel was a UAE-flagged ship called the Rwabee. The Saudi-led Coalition, which has been fighting Houthi rebels since 2015, after the Houthis forced the internationally recognized Yemeni president into exile, said the ship was carrying medical field equipment.
In a statement condemning the seizure, U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said, “These actions [by the Houthis] interfere with freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and threaten international trade and regional security.”
The Arab Interior Ministers Council called the hijacking a “criminal act” and “a serious threat to the freedom of maritime navigation and global trade in the Bab al-Mandab strait and the southern Red Sea.” The Organization of Islamic Cooperation also condemned the seizure saying such action could disrupt humanitarian aid and other relief efforts to help the Yemeni people.
The incident targeting the Rwabee was not the first Houthi seizure of a commercial ship. In 2019, they briefly seized a Saudi-flagged ship and two South Korean vessels, and they have launched drones for maritime attacks against oil tankers and other targets multiple times.
Well into its seventh year, the war in Yemen has led to a terrible humanitarian disaster, with the United Nations estimating 300,000 fatalities because of the hostilities, disease, and lack of food and water.
Spokesperson Price said that Houthi actions, like the seizure of the vessel, “come at a time when all parties should be de-escalating and returning to inclusive political talks. We urge the Houthis to immediately release the ship and crew unharmed and to cease all violence that sets back the political process to end the war in Yemen.”