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A Sea of Tensions: Escalating Conflict in Yemen and its Global Impact

Amid the aftermath of the recent Israel-Hamas war, global attention is now shifting towards the escalating conflict in Yemen. The Red Sea, a strategic maritime route carrying an estimated 12% of global trade, is the latest epicenter of tensions. The United States and Britain have launched strikes against 36 Houthi targets in Yemen in response to attacks on American and international interests by Iran-backed groups. These strikes were executed by US warships and American and British fighter jets and were not limited to one night, one target, or one group.

The Houthi rebels, supported by Iran, have been a significant adversary for the U.S. since the Hamas-Israel conflict began on October 7. This conflict resulted in over 1,200 deaths and about 250 hostages. The Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza reported more than 26,000 deaths and over 64,400 wounded since the war's inception. The Houthis have been conducting frequent missile or drone attacks against commercial and military ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

In response to the escalating tensions, the European Union plans to launch a naval mission, Aspides, on February 19. The mission aims to safeguard commercial shipping in the Red Sea from missile attacks by Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Houthi attacks have caused major shipping companies to opt for longer, costlier routes, leading to shipping delays and temporary production halts in some European factories. These disruptions have triggered concerns of potential inflation in Western economies.

Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, and Italy, five EU member states, have publicly committed to the mission. Unlike the US and UK's Operation Prosperity Guardian, which has bombed multiple Houthi targets, the EU's mission will solely focus on protecting ships and intercepting incoming missiles. The EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, assured that the mission's capabilities will be "proportionate to the threat" and will not include any operations on land, only at sea.

Meanwhile, Yemen's Houthi militants attacked an oil tanker, Marlin Luanda, in the Gulf of Aden, causing a fire. The British oil tanker was operated by the commodities group Trafigura. The Houthi militants claimed responsibility for the attack, which they say was in retaliation to the "American-British aggression against Yemen" and in support of the Palestinian people.

The ongoing conflict within Yemen between Houthi forces and a Saudi-backed coalition has led to a humanitarian crisis. The conflict, which began with the Houthi forces taking over the capital Sanaa in 2014, escalated into a wider war in 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition intervened. The United Nations Development Programme reported in 2021 that the conflict has resulted in up to 377,000 deaths, with more than half of those from indirect causes associated with the conflict, such as lack of food, water, and healthcare.

The escalating tensions in the Red Sea carry high stakes for not only the nations directly involved but also for global trade and security. The world watches closely as the ripples of this conflict continue to spread, waiting to see how the situation will unfold.