Houthis seized an Israel-linked ship

GS Paper II

News Excerpt:

Recently, the Yemen rebel group of Houthis seized an Israel-linked ship bound for India.

More about the news:

  • Yemen’s Houthi rebels seized an Israeli-linked cargo ship in a crucial Red Sea shipping route and took its 25 crew members hostage.
  • It has raised fears of another dimension being added to the ongoing Gaza conflict.
  • The Iran-backed Houthi rebels said they would continue to target ships in international waters that were linked to or owned by Israelis until the end of Israel’s campaign against Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

Implication of Israeli-linked cargo seize:

  •  The main danger from the Houthis’ activity is that their involvement can widen the conflict, potentially drawing in Iran.
  • Also, if Israel wants to attack Houthi territory in retaliation, its rockets will have to go over Saudi Arabia, possibly forcing the powerful Muslim country to wade into the conflict.
  • Seizing vessels in the sea can also involve many other countries with stakes in the maritime trade in the region.

Who are Houthis?

  • The Houthis are a rebel group locked in a civil war with the Yemen government for almost a decade.
    •  They are in power in northern Yemen, including the official capital, Sanaa.
  • They ousted Yemen’s transitional government led by Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in a 2014 coup and have since been engaged in a bloody civil war with the ousted administration, which Saudi Arabia backs.
  • The group is named after the Houthi tribe. The Houthis are Zaydi Shias backed by Iran, while the Yemen government has the support of Iran’s most prominent rival, Saudi Arabia and the West.
  • The group’s origins lie in a Zaydi religious revival movement of the early 1990s.
  • Houthis’ support for Palestine stems from a staunch opposition to Israel and the West. While the Houthi stronghold in Yemen is too far from Israel for their rockets and fighters to pose a direct threat.

Strategic importance of Red Sea:

  • The Red Sea, with its connection to the Suez Canal, is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, offering an alternative to the route around the Cape of Good Hope.
    • It’s essential to maintaining many countries’ political and economic stability. 
  • The Red Sea is of substantial strategic importance, lying between the continents of Asia and Africa, separating the Middle East, the Far East, Europe, and Asia. 
  • The geopolitical position of the Red Sea is crucial because it’s a natural border between the eastern coast of Africa and the western coast of the Arabian Peninsula and a vital route for oil transportation through the Bab el-Mandeb in the south to the Suez Canal in the North.
  • As long as oil remains a primary energy source for the world, this shipping lane will remain a vital channel for its transport from the Gulf.
  • Among almost 1,500 ships transiting the Bab el-Mandeb Strait strait every month, there may be scores that could be linked to Israel and that are thus vulnerable to further Houthi hijackings.


The Houthi rebels seized an Israeli-linked cargo ship in the Red Sea, escalating tensions amid the Gaza conflict. The strategic Red Sea route's disruption raises concerns about a broader Iran conflict, potentially impacting maritime trade and drawing in regional powers. The collaborative engagement should aim to safeguard this crucial naval route.