Iran-backed Houthi rebels have warned they could launch attacks against Italy if the country joins. Western Allied Forces in carrying out attacks in Yemen, a senior official of the group said on Monday.

The head of the Supreme Revolutionary Committee of the Houthis, Muhammad Ali al-Houthi, gave an interview to the daily La Repubblica and said that Italy should remain neutral during the ongoing conflict.

He then warned the Mediterranean country that it would face retaliation if it cooperated in attacks against the Houthis. US Department of State said it was officially re-designated as a foreign terrorist group last month.

The comments came after Italian Defense Minister Guido Croceto said on Friday that an Italian admiral would help lead an EU naval mission in the Red Sea to protect ships from Houthi militia attacks.

US forces launch defensive offensive against Houthis, accused of posing ‘an imminent threat’ in Red Sea

Guido Croceto

An Italian admiral will help lead the European Union’s espionage operation in the Red Sea, Italian Defense Minister Guido Croceto said on Friday. (Massimo Di Vita/Archivio Massimo Di Vita/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said last week that he hoped the naval mission – named Aspides, ancient Greek for “protector” – would be launched on February 17.

Italy then announced that it had been tasked with providing the leader of the naval mission.

“The European Union has today asked Italy to provide the force commander for the Espides operation in the Red Sea,” Crocito said, adding that Greece would likely take overall command of the mission. It has not been officially announced yet.

Houthi fighters are throwing stones at the US and UK flags.

Houthi fighters carry British and American flags during a rally in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on the outskirts of Sana’a, Yemen, on February 4, 2024, following recent Houthi attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. (Mohammed Hammoud/Getty Images)

Muhammad Ali Al-Houthi

The President of the Houthi Revolutionary Committee of Yemen, Muhammad Ali Al-Houthi, has said that if the country attacks Yemen, the Houthis will attack Italy. (Mohammed Hammoud/Getty Images)

Plans for Italy to join the mission to defend merchant ships on the key trade route were first announced in December 2023 following a meeting between Croceto and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

The US shot down a Houthi anti-aircraft missile inside Yemen, official

During the virtual meeting, Croceto affirmed that Italy “will play its part” in ensuring stability in the region.

“During the meeting we reaffirmed the importance of the freedom of navigation principle, assessed the impact on international trade and the impact on the security of sea lanes and the international economy, along with dangerous dynamics for commodity prices. discussed the possible options to avoid. Crusito said that in order to work together with the international community to counter the destabilizing terrorist activities of the Houthis, which we have already publicly condemned, and do their part to protect the prosperity of trade and freedom of navigation and to ensure compliance with international law.”

Houthi militants in vehicles

US and British forces launched strikes against 36 Houthi rebel targets in Yemen on Saturday, the second day of major US strikes since an attack on US troops last weekend that killed three Americans at a remote outpost in Jordan. Soldiers were killed. (Mohammed  Hammoud/Getty Images)

“It is important to increase our presence in the region to create conditions of stability, avoid environmental disasters and prevent the resumption of further inflationary peaks,” he added.

Dozens of attacks have been launched against the Houthi rebels, who control most of Yemen. US Navy ships and trading merchant ships in the Red Sea. They claim that these attacks are carried out in solidarity with Palestinians killed during Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

Borrell said the naval mission’s mandate is to protect merchant ships and prevent attacks, but not to launch attacks against the Houthis.

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