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Houthis are using weapons that can reach the Mediterranean Sea, US says

By Ramsey Al-Rikabi Bloomberg News

The Houthi militants in Yemen have weapons that can reach as far as the Mediterranean Sea, according to a senior defense official, lending some credence to the group’s threats that it can expand its attacks on shipping beyond its immediate borders.

The U.S. government is concerned that the Iran-backed group has the capability to extend strikes on shipping beyond the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden to the Mediterranean, said the official, who asked for anonymity to discuss private talks.

The official said Houthis have access to advanced weaponry and that their deployment of anti-ship ballistic missiles is virtually unprecedented. The group has also used drones in its attacks.

The assessment comes as defense officials from the U.S. and the Gulf Cooperation Council meet Wednesday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The U.S. will seek to use the gathering to pursue further integration of air and missile defenses, including sharing radar data and developing early-warning capabilities.

The official added that the success by Israel, the U.S. , U.K. and regional partners to repel a barrage on Israel of more than 300 missiles and drones from Iran and its proxies on April 13 is proof of the effectiveness of Washington’s integrated defense alliances.

The Houthis earlier this month said they would expand their range to vessels in the eastern Mediterranean. The organization began the attacks as a show of solidarity with Hamas in the Gaza war.

The official added that no strikes in the Mediterranean have been detected, and didn’t specify if the group had the capability to hit moving targets on the water over such a distance. Almost all of its successful strikes on ships have been relatively close to Yemen.

The Houthis have threatened vessels associated with Israel, the U.S. and the U.K. since October, effectively closing the southern Red Sea to most Western ships. Shipping and freight executives increasingly think it will remain too dangerous for many more months, forcing them to skip the Suez Canal and go around southern Africa.

The Houthis receive military training and intelligence and radar support from Iran, which is crucial when targeting moving objects such as ships.