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Top UK, Iranian diplomats discuss Houthi attacks in Red Sea

January 1, 2024 at 11:55 am

British Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs David Cameron arrives in Downing Street to attend the weekly Cabinet meeting in London, United Kingdom on December 12, 2023 [Raşid Necati Aslım/Anadolu Agency]

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron held a phone call on Sunday with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on the increasing number of attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on vessels in the Red Sea, Anadolu Agency reports.

Cameron told Amir-Abdollahian that the attacks “threaten innocent lives and the global economy.”

“I made clear that Iran shares responsibility for preventing these attacks, given their long-standing support to the Houthis,” he added.

Iran has previously rejected allegations that it is helping the Houthis carry out attacks on Israeli-linked ships.

The Iran-backed Houthis have significantly stepped up their involvement in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas in the Gaza Strip by targeting vessels in the Red Sea, one the world’s most important routes for oil and fuel shipments.

The US said Sunday that it fired “in self-defense” and sunk three of four Houthi boats, killing their crews.

“On 31 December at 6:30 am (Sanaa time) the container ship MAERSK HANGZHOU issued a second distress call in less than 24 hours reporting being under attack by four Iranian-backed Houthi small boats.

“The small boats, originating from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen, fired crew-served and small arms weapons at the MAERSK HANGZHOU, getting to within 20 meters of the vessel, and attempted to board the vessel,” US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on X.

READ: US shoots down 2 anti-ship ballistic missiles fired by Houthi group in Red Sea: CENTCOM

A security team aboard the MAERSK HANZGHOU engaged in fire, and in response to a distress call, US helicopters from the USS EISENHOWER (CVN 69) and GRAVELY (DDG 107) were also dispatched.”

After being warned verbally, people in the small boats opened fire on the US helicopters.

“The US Navy helicopters returned fire in self-defense, sinking three of the four small boats and killing the crews. The fourth boat fled the area,” it added.

No damage to US personnel and equipment was reported.

Yemen later responded with a statement.

“The Yemeni armed forces, while bleeding in the midst of the battle to support the Al-Aqsa Flood (operation), these martyrs for the sake of Palestine, confirm that the American enemy bears the consequences of this crime and its repercussions and that its military movements in the Red Sea to protect Israeli ships will not prevent Yemen from performing its religious, moral and humanitarian duty in support and victory for the oppressed in Palestine.

“We also call on the rest of the countries not to engage in the dangerous American behaviour, as it will have negative repercussions that may affect everyone,” it said.

Israel launched relentless air and ground attacks on the Gaza Strip since a cross-border attack by Hamas on 7 October.

At least 21,822 Palestinians have since been killed and 56,451 others injured, according to Gaza’s health authorities, while nearly 1,200 Israelis are believed to have been killed in the Hamas attack.

The Israeli onslaught has left Gaza in ruins, with 60% of the enclave’s infrastructure damaged or destroyed and nearly 2 million residents displaced amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine.

READ: Denmark to send frigate to US-led task force in Red Sea