US and UK defend strikes on Houthis at UN Security Council amid fears of escalation News
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US and UK defend strikes on Houthis at UN Security Council amid fears of escalation

The US and UK defended the legality of their strikes launched in Yemen against Houthi rebels at the UN Security Council’s Friday meeting. The airstrikes, conducted by an international coalition led by the United States and supported by Britain, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands, drew international attention and sparked a broader debate on the humanitarian situation in Yemen and compliance with Security Council resolution 2722 (2024), which demands an end to Houthi attacks on commercial vessel in the Red Sea.

During the Security Council meeting, the United States vehemently defended the strikes, asserting that they were in full compliance with international law. The US representative argued that the strikes were necessary measures taken in self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter. They emphasized the continuous threat posed by Houthi attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea, which have disrupted maritime navigation and endangered innocent lives, saying “even Russia” was impacted. The UK’s representative made similar points, saying the strikes were necessary and proportionate self-defense, and that the operation took care to minimize risks to civilians.

Russia’s delegate argued that the right to self-defense does not extend to commercial shipping and emphasized the importance of freedom of navigation under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The delegate expressed concerns over the potential for excessive use of force and cautioned against further military adventurism. Other Council members echoed these concerns and called for a diplomatic resolution to the tensions in the region. Switzerland’s delegate said that any military operation beyond immediate protection would be disproportionate, while China’s representative emphasized the need for calm and restraint to prevent further destabilization in the Middle East.

Addressing the Security Council, Khaled Khiari, Assistant Secretary-General for the Middle East, Asia, and the Pacific, warned of dangerous escalation in Yemen and the wider region. He called on all parties involved to exercise restraint and avoid further escalation, emphasizing the fragility of recent humanitarian improvements and the potential setback to political settlement efforts. UN Secretary-General António Guterres issued a statement urging adherence to international law and the avoidance of acts that could exacerbate the situation in Yemen. He also stressed the need to fully respect UN Security Council resolution 2722 (2024), which demands the immediate cessation of Houthi attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea area. The Secretary-General called upon all Member States defending their vessels from attacks to do so in accordance with international law.

Critics argue that the airstrikes risk exacerbating the ongoing cycle of violence in the country, with potential grave political, security, economic, and humanitarian repercussions. Houthi senior official Hussein al-Ezzi took to social media to condemn the “massive aggressive attack” by American and British forces, warning that the perpetrators would face dire consequences. Meanwhile, Hassan Nasrallah, the General Secretary of Hezbollah in Lebanon, criticized the aggression as American and British “foolishness” and contradictory to their calls for avoiding military escalation.

The Houthis, an Iran-backed rebel group, have been attacking and targeting ships in the Red Sea for months. They say this is in support of Gaza and claims they are only targeting Israel-linked ships; however, many attacks have been indiscriminate and some experts say the group is trying to strengthen its position in the region. Experts and organizations have weighed in on the situation, emphasizing the need for a measured and strategic approach. Emilia Pierce, a Rule of Law Program Officer at the DT Institute, said Red Sea and Yemen issue is complex and called for a realistic path towards peace and recovery. She cautioned against relying solely on military force, fearing further escalation that could plunge the country into another devastating conflict.