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Leader of Yemen's Houthis vows to attack more shipping lanes

FILE PHOTO: Houthi fighters open the door of cockpit on the cargo ship Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea

CAIRO (Reuters) -The leader of Yemen's Houthis, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, said on Thursday the group's operations targeting vessels will escalate to prevent Israel-linked ships from passing through the Indian Ocean towards the Cape of Good Hope.

"Our main battle is to prevent ships linked to the Israeli enemy from passing through not only the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, but also the Indian Ocean towards the Cape of Good Hope. This is a major step and we have begun to implement our operations related to it," al-Houthi said in a televised speech.

The Iran-aligned group has been attacking ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November in what they say is a campaign of solidarity with Palestinians during Israel's war with Hamas in Gaza.

Around 34 Houthi members have been killed since the group began the attacks, al-Houthi added.

Months of Houthi attacks in the Red Sea have disrupted global shipping, forcing firms to re-route to longer and more expensive journeys around southern Africa, and stoked fears that the Israel-Hamas war could spread to destabilise the wider Middle East.

The turmoil from Israel's war with the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has spilled over to some extent into other parts of the Middle East. Apart from the Houthi attacks on vital shipping lanes, Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah group has traded fire with Israel along the Israel-Lebanon border and pro-Iran Iraqi militia have attacked bases that host U.S. forces.

The United States and Britain have launched strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen and redesignated the militia as a terrorist group.

(Reporting by Enas Alashray and Ahmed Tolba; Editing by Leslie Adler)