Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis said on Monday that they had exposed a “spy” network aiding the United States and Israel and arrested suspected members of it.

The Houthi-run Saba news agency published footage of the detained men, describing them as “spies recruited to collect information and monitor sites operated by the Yemeni (Houthi) armed forces on Yemen’s western coast for the benefit of the American and Israeli enemy.”

According to Saba, the group had been recruited after the Houthis began targeting vessels in November in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, disrupting global trade. They say that this is in solidarity with Palestinians amid the Israel-Hamas war.

The report did not specify the number of suspects arrested, but unverified images Saba shared on social media showed at least 18 people.

No evidence was provided to substantiate the charges, which Saba said the suspects had confessed to.

The Houthis, who control parts of war-torn Yemen, “will spare no effort in carrying out their responsibility to secure the home front and protect it from infiltration attempts by the American and Israeli enemy,” Saba reported.

The United States announced in December a maritime security initiative to protect Red Sea shipping from Houthi attacks, which have forced commercial vessels to divert from the busy shipping lane, which normally carries 12% of global trade.

Since January, the United States and Britain have launched repeated strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen in response to their attacks on shipping.

The Houthi-run news agency said that the suspects were tasked with monitoring anti-ship missile and drone launch sites and the locations of Houthi vessels, and submitting coordinates to facilitate strikes by the US as well as British forces.

The strikes have done little to deter the Houthis who have vowed to target Israeli, American and British vessels as well as all ships heading to Israeli ports.

On Friday, the Houthis threatened to extend their attacks into the Mediterranean Sea.

With AFP