The Yemeni Houthi rebels, whose attacks have caused the suspension of a large part of the routes of the fleets of major shipping companies through the Red Sea, guarantees to Chinese and Russian ships “safe passage” from this waterway of strategic importance, according to an interview with a leading figure of the movement published in today’s issue of the Izvestia newspaper.

From mid-November, the Houthis have launched dozens—about thirty—attacks in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. They say they are targeting ships bound for Israel in “solidarity” with the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Last month, the US formed a multinational naval coalition to protect international shipping in the Red Sea, a critical sea route through which about 12 percent of world trade passes.

The U.S. military, in some cases alongside the British, has launched bombardments five times in the past week against Houthi installations in Yemen, primarily to reduce the Iranian-backed movement’s military capabilities.

“The insanity and stupidity of the US and the UK is backfired: now none of their ships will be able to pass through one of the world’s major trade routes. The losses for the attacking countries are higher than the losses for Yemen,” said Mohammed al-Buhaiti, a member of the Houthi Supreme Political Council.

“As for other countries, including China and Russia, their maritime transport in the region is not threatened. We are ready to guarantee the safe passage of their ships through the Red Sea,” added the leader of the movement (officially Ansar Ala, “Supporters of God”, Houthi is the family name of its leaders).

“But Israeli ships, or those that have anything to do with Israel, we don’t give the slightest chance to pass through the Red Sea,” added Mr. Bouhaiti, explaining that “our purpose is to increase the financial cost for the Jewish state so that to stop the carnage in Gaza”.

According to the International Chamber of Commerce Shipping (ICS), 12% of world trade passes through the Red Sea.

Due to Houthi attacks, insurance costs have skyrocketed. This pushed major shipping companies to commission their ships to circumnavigate Africa, consequently making their itineraries more time-consuming and costly.

In November, the Houthis seized the Galaxy Leader, a ship owned by a British company, which in turn is owned by an Israeli businessman, holding its 25 crew members hostage ever since.

The hostages are “fine”, assured Mr Bouhaiti, explaining to Izvestia that his movement is making preparations for various scenarios, among them the possibility of the US launching a ground operation in Yemen.