Houthis in Yemen
Houthis in YemenReuters

Yemen's Houthi rebels threatened on Saturday to attack any vessels heading to Israeli ports unless food and medicine were allowed into the Gaza Strip, AFP reported.

In a statement posted on social media, the Houthis said they "will prevent the passage of ships heading to the Zionist entity" if humanitarian aid is not allowed into Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Regardless of which flag ships sail under or the nationality of their owners or operators, Israel-bound vessels "will become a legitimate target for our armed forces", the statement warned.

"We warn all ships and companies against dealing with Israeli ports," the Houthi statement said.

It added that all "ships linked to Israel or that will transport goods to Israeli ports" are not welcome in the Red Sea, a vital channel for global trade linked to the Suez Canal.

The Iranian-backed Houthis have upped their attacks since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7.

Several weeks ago, the Houthis hijacked a ship in the Red Sea which they claimed was an “Israeli cargo ship”, but it was later clarified that the ship is under British ownership, is managed by a Japanese company, and had no Israeli citizens on board.

Later, another vessel, the Liberian-flagged Central Park, was intercepted by unknown attackers before being released under the help of the US Navy.

The Houthis have also fired missiles at Israel several times since the start of the war against Hamas.

On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the US has requested that Israel not respond to attacks by Houthi rebels.

According to the report, the US request is driven by concern that Israeli retaliation might spark a wider regional conflict.

The report, which cited US and other government officials, said that the US requested that Israel allow the American military to deal with the Houthis instead.