US, British 'defensive' strikes won't end Houthi attacks: Yemen PLC head

AFP , Saturday 27 Jan 2024

Yemen's internationally recognised government Saturday said "defensive" US and British strikes on the Houthi rebels aren't enough and called for US and Saudi support to "eliminate" their ability to stage attacks on Red Sea shipping.

Rashad al-Alimi
Chairman of the Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council Rashad al-Alimi speaks to reporters during a briefing at the embassy of Yemen in Riyadh, on January 27, 2024. AFP


"Defensive operations are not the solution," Rashad al-Alimi, head of the Presidential Leadership Council (PLC), told a briefing with journalists in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

"The solution is to eliminate the Houthis' military capabilities."

His comments came on the heels of a US strike early Saturday against an anti-ship missile in Houthi-held Yemen, hours after the Iran-backed rebels caused a fire on a British tanker in the Gulf of Aden with a similar munition.

US and British forces on January 12 fired their first joint strikes aimed at reducing the Houthis' ability to target vessels transiting the key Red Sea trade route -- attacks the rebels say are in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, where Israel has launched a massive military campaign on Gaza.

Washington, which since then has also carried out unilateral strikes against the Houthis, has labelled them "self-defence" operations, as has London.

Alimi heads the PLC, the Saudi-backed entity representing the internationally recognised government that the Houthis ousted from Sanaa nearly a decade ago.

The PLC is based in the southern city of Aden.

Analysts have warned that rising tensions in the region could derail efforts to broker a ceasefire between the Houthis and a Saudi-backed military coalition which mobilised to topple them in 2015.

Alimi said on Saturday that he supported the peace process but charged that the Houthis and Iran did not want peace.

"We have formed a negotiating team and we are ready for the peace process, but unfortunately we do not have a partner in this process," he said. "Every time a step is taken towards peace, the Houthis and their Iranian supporters create a new problem to move away from this path."

He also said he wanted American and Saudi support for ground operations against the Houthis, and that Yemeni forces would need to be "partners" in those operations.

"We demand (this support) every day, every month, every year," he said.

War footing


Yemen's war has killed hundreds of thousands of people, either directly in the fighting or indirectly as a result of war-induced shortages.

A UN-brokered ceasefire in April 2022 brought a sharp reduction in hostilities. The truce expired in October last year, though fighting has largely remained on hold.

Alimi said on Saturday, however, that the Houthis remained on a war footing.

"Today, the Houthis are mobilising on all fronts and attacking all fronts affiliated with the legitimate government, and there are daily missile and drone strikes on all fronts and on cities affiliated with the legitimate government," he said.

The Houthis' attacks against Red Sea shipping have raised their global profile and earned them support from elsewhere in the Arab world amid anger over the Israeli war on Gaza that the Ministry of Health in Gaza says has killed 26,257 people, about 70 percent of them women and children.

Alimi said on Saturday that the Houthis' message in support of Palestinians would not burnish their profile among Yemenis because they have not taken serious steps towards peace at home, such as lifting a blockade on the Yemeni city of Taez.

"Yemenis today are asking the Houthis: why you are demanding the lifting of the siege on Gaza and not lifting the siege on Taez?" he said.

Short link: