In this photo provided by the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence on January 10, 2024, taken from the bridge of HMS Diamond, Sea Viper missiles are fired in the Red Sea. Al Houthis have fired their largest-ever barrage of drones and missiles targeting shipping in the Red Sea, forcing the United States and British navies to shoot down the projectiles in a major naval engagement. Image Credit: AP

United Nations: The UN Security Council on Wednesday demanded Yemen’s Al Houthis immediately end attacks on ships in the Red Sea and cautioned against escalating tensions while implicitly endorsing a US-led task force that has been defending vessels.

The demand came in a Security Council resolution that also called on the Houthis to release the Galaxy Leader, a Japanese-operated vehicle carrier linked to an Israeli businessman that the group commandeered on November 19, and its 25-person crew.

Eleven members voted for the measure demanding Al Houthis “immediately cease all attacks, which impede global commerce and navigational rights and freedoms as well as regional peace.”

Four members, including veto-wielding Russia and China, abstained. None voted against.

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The head of Al Houthi supreme revolutionary committee, Mohammed Ali Al Houthi, said on Thursday the UN resolution on navigation on the Red Sea is a “political game” and that the United States was the one violating international law.

Al Houthi said in a posting on media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, that what Yemeni armed forces were doing comes within the framework of legitimate defence, and that any action they face will have a reaction.

“We call on the Security Council to immediately release 2.3 Million people from the Israeli-American siege in Gaza,” he said.

The key provision of the resolution, sponsored by the US and Japan, noted the right of UN member states, in accordance with international law, “to defend their vessels from attack, including those that undermine navigational rights and freedoms.” The provision amounted to an implicit endorsement of Operation Prosperity Guardian, a US-led multinational naval task force that has been defending commercial ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden from Al Houthi missile and drone attacks.

“The threat to navigational rights and freedoms in the Red Sea is a global challenge that necessitates a global response,” US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in urging the council to approve the resolution.

Al Houthis, an Iran-aligned group that seized much of Yemen in a civil war, have vowed to attack ships linked to Israel or bound for Israeli ports to show support for Hamas Islamists battling the Israeli offensive in Gaza. However, many of the targeted ships have had no links to Israel.

The US accuses Iran of providing critical support for Al Houthi attacks, including advanced missiles and drones, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Tehran denies the allegation.

Al Houthi spokesman in Yemen, Mohammed Abdul Salam, dismissed the UN resolution as a “political game” and said the US was the one violating international law.

The council voted after rejecting amendments proposed by Russia that would have stripped out the implicit endorsement of the US-led task force and included the war in Gaza among the “root causes” of Al Houthi strikes.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia questioned the legitimacy of the task force and said the resolution as drafted was “an open-ended blessing of it.” Al Houthi attacks have disrupted maritime commerce, prompting some shipping lines to divert vessels from the Red Sea to longer routes, threatening to increase energy and food prices.

In the latest strikes, Washington said US and British warships on Tuesday shot down 21 drones and missiles fired by the Houthis at southern Red Sea shipping lanes in what London called the largest such attack in the area.

US Central Command said there have been 26 Houthi strikes on shipping since the Houthis seized the Galaxy Leader.