The leader of Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels is now warning that "any American targeting of our country will be targeted by us" as the U.S. is leading a multinational effort to protect commercial ships from being attacked by the Houthis in the Red Sea.
The fiery rhetoric from Abdel-Malek al-Houthi comes as Greece said on Thursday it will send a naval frigate to the region to participate in Operation Prosperity Guardian, according to Reuters.
"We will not stand idly by if the Americans are tempted to escalate further and commit foolishness by targeting our country or waging war against it," Reuters quoted al-Houthi as saying Wednesday in a televised speech.
"Any American targeting of our country will be targeted by us, and we will make American battleships, interests, and navigation a target for our missiles, drones, and military operations," he reportedly added.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement Tuesday that "The recent escalation in reckless Houthi attacks originating from Yemen threatens the free flow of commerce, endangers innocent mariners, and violates international law. "
"Operation Prosperity Guardian is bringing together multiple countries to include the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain, to jointly address security challenges in the southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, with the goal of ensuring freedom of navigation for all countries and bolstering regional security and prosperity," Austin added.
However, the announcement has drawn a mixed reaction from some of the countries’ defense ministries.
In a statement Thursday, Greek Defense Minister Nikos Dendias said the frigate his country is sending "will participate in the multinational operation 'Prosperity Guardian', for the protection of merchant ships, the lives of seafarers, the global economy," according to Reuters.
The U.K. Ministry of Defense said Tuesday that Royal Navy Destroyer HMS Diamond has joined the effort.
"Alongside HMS Diamond, the task force currently includes three U.S. destroyers, and a French warship is also in the region," it said at the time.
However, France’s Defense Ministry said its ships in the region would stay under their command and Spain's Defense Ministry said it will only participate in NATO or EU-led operations, Reuters reports.