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Peeter Raudsik: De-escalation situation in the Red Sea has to start with peace in Gaza

Peeter Raudsik.
Peeter Raudsik. Source: ERR

Drone and missile strikes by the Yemen-based Houthi group on shipping in the Red Sea, with the result that many shipping companies have chosen to change routes, leading to a spike in freight rates, demonstrates that the organization is to be taken seriously, according to one commentator.

Talking to ETV show "Valisilm," Peeter Raudsik, Middle East expert, said that the long-running conflict demonstrates that the Houthis are a capable force and that they should not be underestimated, even now.

Raudsik said: "They have the resilience, organization and ability to continue their actions. It is not possible to beat them back by itself, negotiations must take place specifically in the part that is in the Red Sea or in the part that is happening in Gaza."

Those actions include attacks on commercial ships in the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and by extension, the Indian Ocean.

Middle East expert Helga Kalm also told "Ringvaade" this week that attacks on merchant ships in the Red Sea need to be seen as a continuation of the war between Israel and Hamas, 

Last Thursday, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella term for pro-Iran Shia Islamist insurgent groups , said that if Yemen were to be hit by the U.S. or its allies, "we will attack the Americans' base with everything in our power."

The next day, the U.S. and the U.K. with backing from several other countries , launched a series of cruise missile and airstrikes against the Houthi in Yemen, in response to the ongoing attacks on ships in the Red Sea.

American officials said the strikes were intended to degrade Houthi capabilities to attack Red Sea targets rather than to kill leaders and Iranian trainers; the Houthis said at least five people were killed and six wounded.

Houthi attacks on shipping had been condemned by the United Nations Security Council the day before the strike.

The ongoing conflict between the US. and Iran-backed militias had been ongoing for several weeks now and includes the interception of Houthi-laucnehd drones and cruise missiles, while the Houtis have repeatedly targeted civilian shipping in the Red Sea.

Raudsik called the Houthis' actions to date: "Unacceptable. This is illegal and dangerous. It can lead to serious loss of life and vessels being sunk. It has to end."

The group is officially known as Ansar Allah, a name which, as is the case with many such militia and terror groups in the region, invokes a theorized monotheistic deity in its title. Ansar Allah itself rejects the name "Houthis."

Much of Western Yemen is under the group's control; Yemen itself has been riven by civil war for a decade now.

In any case, the group's actions are also linked to the current war in Gaza, meaning the situation in the Red Sea is unlikely to improve for as long as that war is going, Raudsik said.

"After all, the war between Israel and Hamas is what has caused this current escalation," Raudsik said.

"De-escalation and the normalization of the situation in the Red Sea must start with the establishment of some kind of peace in Gaza, because right now it is very convenient for the Houthis to play the role of defender of the Palestinians and their interests in the Arab world, as no one else fills this void," Peeter Raudsik commented.

"Until a message comes from the Palestinians that they too are ready to move forward, or Israel will end military operations. But as of today it is difficult to see any external power, other than the U.S., that would be able to induce Israel to do that," Raudsik added.

The Houthis themselves had previously declared that their attacks are in support of Palestinians during the 2023 Israel–Hamas war.

Lloyd's List Intelligence reports shipping traffic in the Red Sea fell by almost 20 percent in the first week of January, while East-West trade prices have more than doubled in a month.

Shipping companies have often chosen alternate routes as a result of the attacks, which have meant a much, much longer detour around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa

As a result ocean freight rates up to $10,000 per 40-foot container (around a ten-fold increase on the pre-conflict price) have been reported.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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