It has been reported that Houthi rebels have placed missiles, cannons and other heavy weaponry on two islands int he Red Sea, including Perim, the island that divides the Bab El-Mandeb Strait into two channels between Djibouti and Yemen.
Over the duration of the past week, there have been reports of the Houthi rebels in Yemen deploying various heavy weaponry, missiles and long range cannons to two islands in the Red Sea, in a bid to defend themselves in the event of a blockade, or in retaliation to feeling threatened when it comes to control of the coastal areas of Yemen.
In addition, two Iranian naval vessels were deployed to the Gulf of Aden, amid accusations that Iran are funding the Houthi rebels. Iran has since stated that the vessels are part of an anti-piracy campaign "safeguarding naval routes for vessels in the region". However the deployment coincided with military aid being sent to the Arab State coalition from the U.S. which is being used to launch attacks on rebels in Yemen.
At this stage, there have been no reports of either the Houthi rebels utilizing their deployed defense measures from the islands, or commercial vessels transiting in the area being affected. Djibouti's foreign minister, Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, has stated that Arab State coalition forces must remove the weapons that have been deployed on the islands to ensure the safe passage of ships through the Bab El-Mandeb Strait, however there has not been an indication of when this may happen.
Trade has continued to pass through the waterway that gives commercial vessels access to the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea unimpeded since the rebels took Aden and the conflict escalated. The diversion of merchant ships around the southern tip off Africa would only be necessary if the Bab El-Mandeb Strait were to be closed, however Egyptian President Abdel Fattag el-Sisi has stated that 'securing navigation in the Red Sea and protecting Bab El-Mandab Strait is a top priority for Egypt's and Arab countries' national security'. Egypt as part of Arab State coalition has pledged to keep the Strait open, and will continue to send air and sea support to the region.