Following Israel’s war and siege against Gaza, which began in earnest on October 7 of last year and has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Palestinians, the Yemeni Army led by Ansar Allah declared a military operation against Israel. Its aim: to compel Tel Aviv to cease its destructive war on Gaza.
No stranger to famine, genocide, and the displacement of civilians thanks to a decade-long war waged against its people led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and backed by the United States, Ansar Allah has led arguably the most consequential resistance to Israel’s bloody campaign in the Gaza Strip, taking the bold and unprecedented step of targeting Israeli-owned, flagged, or operated ships in the Red Sea and Arabian Sea.
Ansar Allah, known colloquially in the West as the Houthis, declared the actions a response to the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and pledged to cease targeting Israeli-connected ships as soon as Israel’s aggression ceases. This mantra has been repeated by Ansar Allah leaders since the onset of its campaign and was confirmed to MintPress by Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of Yemen’s Houthi supreme revolutionary committee, a prominent member of the Ansar Allah movement and a key decision-maker in Yemen’s Sana’a based government.
In response to Ansar Allah’s campaign against Israel, Western powers, particularly the United States, deployed a large flotilla of warships under the pretext of protecting international freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Dismissed in much of the Western media as little more than pirates or an Iranian-backed militia. Western audiences rarely have the opportunity to hear the unfiltered perspective of Ansar Allah’s own leaders. For this reason, MintPress News correspondent Ahmed Abdul-Kareem sat down with Ansar Allah’s second-in-command, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, to discuss recent events in Yemen, Gaza and the Middle East.
MintPress News: What is Ansar Allah’s position on the killing of three American soldiers and the wounding of more than thirty soldiers in the attack that targeted Tower 22? And before that, two U.S. Navy Seals that the U.S. claims died while drowning? What is Ansar Allah’s official position about their deaths?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: The attacks – which we consider a natural reaction to the hostile actions carried out by the United States- are a clear message about the great extent of discontent in the Arab world towards the Americans due to their wrong policies, including the adoption of genocide in Gaza and the aggression on Yemen that puts their soldiers and interests in danger.
The Americans must understand that whoever attacks others will receive a response. As the Arab proverb says: “Whoever knocks on the door will find an answer.”
Regarding the two soldiers you mentioned in the other half of the question, that version of the incident is an American one. We do not trust what America announces. But if the American account is true, there is perhaps a major crime that the Americans are trying to conceal. They revealed the news of their soldiers in order to hide something worse. It is unreasonable for a fully prepared military force not to know where their colleagues have gone. The event is ambiguous. It must be investigated to expose what America is hiding.
MintPress News: You are suffering in Yemen from the repercussions of a war that has lasted for more than eight years, and despite that, you have taken an advanced military and political position in solidarity with Gaza. Why take this position, and how what is your reaction to U.S. and British government statements claiming that your position has nothing to do with Gaza?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: First, our position is religious and humanitarian, and we see a tremendous injustice. We know the size and severity of these massacres committed against the people of Gaza. We have suffered from American-Saudi-Emirati terrorism in a coalition that has launched a war and imposed a blockade against us that is still ongoing. Therefore, we move from this standpoint and do not want the same crime to be repeated. We respond to the demand of our people, who take to the streets every Friday in millions to demonstrate. We also respond to masses in Arab and Islamic nations and to all free people who ask us to defend their Palestinian brothers.
We cannot see the tragic humanitarian situation in Gaza, which has even been recognized by the International Court of Justice as a genocide, and do nothing. Therefore, our move is in this direction: to confront the arrogant ones who confront the oppressed. The oppressed are in a dire situation and endure horrific human suffering because of Israel and the United States, to such a point that they suspended their support for UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees], when instead they should have increased support for it so that it could continue to provide loaves of bread to Palestinians.
MintPress News: Western media represents the blockade of the Red Sea as threatening freedom of navigation for all ships traveling through it. Is this accurate? If not, what countries are allowed to use the Bab al-Mandab Strait without problems, and how does Ansar Allah determine which ships can pass and which are stopped?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: There is no blockade of the Red Sea, and what is being promoted in the Western media that we are targeting international navigation in the Red Sea and endangering international trade is not true. Navigation through the Red Sea is safe for all ships except those linked to Israel. Until recently, 4,874 ships have safely crossed since we announced our operations. Approximately 70 ships pass through Bab al-Mandab [Strait] daily without harm.
We have constantly confirmed that the ships being targeted are only ships linked to “Israel,” whether by heading to the occupied ports or those [ships] owned by Israelis or ships entering the port of Umm al-Rashash [Eilat port]. The Yemeni Armed Forces repeatedly confirms that all ships with no connection to “Israel” will not be harmed. This is what the official spokesman of the Army repeatedly confirms in all issued statements about the naval operations of the Yemeni Armed Forces.
We do not want Bab al-Mandab to be closed, nor for the Red Sea to be closed. This is evidenced by the fact that we have limited ourselves to targeting Israeli ships and ships heading to the occupied Palestinian territories. If we had wanted to close Bab al-Mandab, there would have been other measures, some of which were easier than launching missiles.
In fact, what is being promoted in the Western media is the result of American deception, which is keen to spread false narratives about the events so that they become dominant in the international media. The United States demonizes us through the media by pumping out its incorrect narratives, even though they, and the British, are the devils who refuse to stop the genocide in Gaza and lift the siege on its people. They are militarizing the Red Sea and are continuing the escalation and aggression against Yemen.
As for how ships heading to Israel are identified, this is based on accurate information from the Yemeni Ministry of Defense. If the ship is linked to Israel, it is warned that it must not pass through the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab Strait. If it rejects the warning – after announcing, clarifying and giving signals for it to stop and return – it will be targeted. No ship that was not heading to Israeli ports has been targeted, according to the military data that we trust. And neither the Americans nor the British have been able to prove otherwise.
MintPress News: Are there communication channels that ships can use to avoid danger while passing through Bab al-Mandab, the Red Sea in general, the Arabian Sea, and the Gulf of Aden?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: The Navy confirms this and always repeats it in its [public] statements that there is channel Number 16 through which communication can take place. We tell shipping companies (we talked to them directly) that there is a simple solution they can use, where they can write the phrase, “We have no relation to Israel,” and pass safely. We also encourage them to use Digital Selective Calling [Digital Selective Calling is a technology used in marine communication for sending distress signals. It functions like a digital “call button” on maritime radios].
MintPress News: Western countries say that its operations in the Red Sea are to maintain the security and safety of international navigation. What is your reaction to this?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: It is America that is endangering international navigation by establishing what it calls the “Prosperity Alliance” to protect Israeli ships, even though a more appropriate name for it would be the “Alliance of Destruction, Militarization of the Red Sea, and Expansion of Conflict.”
Its warnings, its repeated media terrorism, and its delivery of messages and calls to ships are the actions that harm global navigation and trade, in addition to its military attacks on our country.
The White House tries to mislead the world by spreading the rumor that passing through Bab al-Mandab is unsafe. It puts pressure on international shipping companies that have no link to Israel not to pass through the Red Sea. This is done to fuel discontent against Yemenis and serve the criminal [Benjamin] Netanyahu. We call on them to stop these acts and to turn to the best solution, which is to stop the aggression and lift the siege on the people of Gaza. The Yemeni Armed Forces did not target American and British ships except in response to their aggression and attacks on our country. Prior to that, the leader of the revolution [Ansar Allah leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi] warned them not to get involved in Yemen.
MintPress News: What is the true nature of U.S./UK airstrikes against Ansar Allah? Are they really causing damage, and what are they actually targeting? Have any Yemeni civilians died in these attacks?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: Firstly, the American-British aggression against Yemen is not anything new. These two countries have been practicing aggression against the Republic of Yemen since 2015. These are the same actions. We are not afraid of the U.S.’s escalation. If the two countries decide to invade by land, they will face harsh lessons even worse than those they faced in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Yemeni people love freedom, are warriors and are well-armed. The army is well-prepared, and Yemenis have many options to inflict a strategic defeat on Americans in the region.
The American-British raids targeted populated cities, including Sana’a, Saada, Hodeidah, Hajjah, and Dhamar. Before that, they targeted our patrols in the Red Sea, and a number of naval forces were martyred. The strikes had no effect, and what is said about their influence is a baseless illusion and a failure, thanks to Allah Almighty.
Through their aggression at sea and their strikes, the Americans and British are defending criminals in the continuation of genocide in Palestine and the killing of civilians by the Israeli enemy without disturbance.
On the other hand, our position in the Republic of Yemen defends humanity. Our operation is carried out to stop the genocide and to stop the killing. Our choice is humanity’s choice, and it is the right choice for which we make sacrifices. The Americans must take the warnings of the leader [Ansar Allah leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi] seriously.
MintPress News: There is talk in U.S. and UK political circles about escalating the war on Yemen, possibly even talk of a ground invasion of the country. What is Ansar Allah’s reaction to this, and how does Asnar Allah plan to expand military operations if the US and UK escalate?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: A ground war is what the Yemeni people wish for because they will be confronted with those who have caused their suffering for more than nine years. It will be a chance for revenge. As the leader of the revolution [Ansar Allah leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi] said, “To be known to America, if they send their soldiers to Yemen, they will face something harsher than what they faced in Afghanistan and what they had suffered in Vietnam. We have the strength to confront the enemy and remain steadfast; our people have withstood nine years in the face of the massive aggression.”
MintPress News: What is your position on the Biden administration’s decision to classify Ansar Allah as a terrorist organization? Does this decision have repercussions for you?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: Designating us as terrorists because we support Gaza is an honor and pride. It is also political, immoral, and has no justification. The U.S. move does not affect us. We do not enter U.S. territory. We also do not have companies or bank balances abroad. They know the designation will not affect our humanitarian or ethical processes or decisions.The solution lies in stopping the aggression against Gaza and allowing food and medicine to enter.
MintPress News: Western countries refer to Ansar Allah as the Houthis. Why do you believe they do this, and what are the fundamental differences between “Houthi” and “Ansar Allah”?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: Ansar Allah, as defined by the leader, is not an organization, political party, or group, as some people promote. They are not framed or structured. Even when the leader of martyrs, Sayyid Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi [the founder of Ansar Allah], began to form the organization, he did not form a unit according to internationally known procedures (such as registration centers or granting membership cards), like most organizations, groups, and parties do. Rather, he presented a project in which the masses of various political orientations, affiliations, and societal segments moved within the framework of the positions included in this project. So you could say we are a widespread popular movement.
Our name, Ansar Allah, comes from a Quranic title that expresses a practical response to the directives of Almighty Allah according to the methodology of the Holy Quran. We always strive to be ِAnsar Allah by bearing the nation’s issues that must be supported for the sake of Allah.
The name “Houthis” is not a name we apply to ourselves. We refuse to be called Houthis. It is not from us. It is a name given to us by our enemies in an attempt to frame the broad masses in Yemeni society that belong to our project. Indeed, these attempts have failed. Our people were not affected by this designation or other negative propaganda. The leader referred to this in one of his last speeches.
MintPress News: Western countries accuse Ansar Allah of being a tool of Iran. Western media reported recently that the U.S. asked China to pressure Iran to stop Ansar Allah from their blockade of the Red Sea. What is the truth behind this matter, and what is Ansar Allah’s relationship with Iran?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: In his speech last Thursday, [Ansar Allah leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi] confirmed that U.S. and British strikes are failures and have no impact [on us] and will not limit our military capabilities. He considered that “America’s attempt to request assistance from China to persuade us to stop our operations in support of Palestine is one of the signs of its failure.”
He also pointed out that “The Chinese will not involve themselves in serving America because they realize that it is in their interest not to follow America. China knows America’s hostile policies against it. It knows very well the extent of the American conspiracy through the Taiwan dilemma.”
Although it is the accusers who are required to prove what they say, we confirm the American allegations as illusions. Our decision is in our own hands, and the Americans and Israelis know that. If they have any accusation against Iran, that is their business. Iran is a sovereign state. We do not like to bother responding to enemies. We do not care about the enemy’s words as long as we take the right position.
MintPress News: There has been a truce between Ansar Allah and the Saudi-led coalition in conjunction with negotiations currently taking place through Omani mediators. Had peace in Yemen been used as a point of pressure to stop your operations in the Red Sea? Who is obstructing the peace process and an agreement between Yemeni parties?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: First, there is no truce but de-escalation. We hope political work will continue to achieve lasting peace for the Republic of Yemen and lift the siege.
Secondly, we have received many indirect messages and threats from the United States, including opening internal combat fronts, moving fronts, obstructing peace, stopping aid, etc., because of the position of the Yemeni people who refuse to allow for the extermination of the people of Gaza.
We are peace lovers. We want to build the Republic of Yemen. We’d like there to be peace. So, our operations in the Red Sea are within the framework of the search for peace for our brothers in Palestine.
But who has prevented peace in Yemen for nine years? Wasn’t it America that threatened to obstruct it? Yes, it was, as previously explained.
We presented a vision for a comprehensive solution [in Yemen], which was published in the media and delivered to the United Nations.
Recently, a paper [was published] whose points were agreed upon [by all parties], and the ones who obstructed it were the Americans. Just as Washington has done in previous rounds [of negotiations], it is obstructing peace right now.
Notice that, although they [the United States] talk about peace in Palestine, they use their veto power to prevent an end to the war. In Yemen, they talk about peace while at the same time launching [military] operations against the people of the Republic of Yemen.
MintPress News: Are there direct negotiation channels between Ansar Allah and the Americans? How can future negotiations be conducted to reduce the escalation in the region?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: We have not yet negotiated with the Americans directly. Although we have been asked to have direct negotiations, we have refused. We do not believe that we can engage in dialogue with the Americans because we see them as terrorist criminals who do everything to continue crimes and massacres. If the Americans hope to communicate [with us], it must be through our brothers in the Sultanate of Oman with our negotiating team there. This is the only way in which dialogue can take place.
MintPress News: Ansar Allah has stated many times that the reason for their blockade is to stand in solidarity and help the people of Gaza. What must Israel do for Ansar Allah to halt any blockade or attacks against Israeli interests?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: You must know that we have never resorted to carrying out operations in the Red Sea before, even though we were subjected to a major war supported mainly by the United States, but we do so now to stop the genocide in Gaza. Our operations will stop immediately as soon as medicine and food enter Gaza and the aggression is stopped. Until this noble humanitarian goal is achieved, the armed air, sea, and land forces will continue to target Israeli, American, and British ships. You see, the equation and solution is simple: let food and medicine reach the people of Gaza, and the aggression will be stopped.
MintPress News: Both the United States and Britain have repeatedly stated that what they are doing in the Red Sea is self-defense and to protect international navigation. What is your reaction to these statements?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: The truth is that Washington and London are bombing people thousands of miles away from their lands. They are carrying out aggression against an independent country that is a member of the United Nations without justification, legitimacy, or legal reference for what they are doing. They are carrying out aggression against Yemen only to protect the Israeli enemy. It is certain and clearly visible that they are not in a state of defense. They could have said that if their ships were being attacked off the coast of Florida or London.
In addition, their aggression has no moral or humanitarian justification, as they came to defend criminals so that Israel can continue committing more genocide in Palestine and killing civilians.
The American and British [people] should know that the administrations in the United States and Britain do not care about the safety of international navigation in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Arabian Sea. They only care about [Benjamin] Netanyahu, encouraging him to continue the genocide of the people of Gaza, even if at the expense of their people’s interests and the lives of their soldiers.
So we say to them: You are the ones who came to ignite the region, you are the ones working to threaten navigation, and you are the ones bringing danger and terrorism to the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, or the Gulf of Aden. You must stop these practices and return to where you came from. The Red Sea belongs to neither the United States nor the British. It is clear to us that America’s policies are hostile. It has ambitions in the China Sea, it has ambitions in the Red Sea, and it also competes with Russia in the Arctic.
Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist based in Sana’a. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.