(Bloomberg) -- The US and UK imposed sanctions Thursday on four senior Houthi militants as the Iran-backed group continues its attacks on vessels passing through the Red Sea.

“The Houthis’ terrorist attacks on merchant vessels and their civilian crews in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden have disrupted international supply chains and infringed on navigational rights and freedoms,” US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement. 

Yemen’s Houthis have roiled global shipping markets and supply chains with their attacks since mid-November. They have fired missiles and drones at ships, as well as tried to hijack several of them.

Freight costs have soared. Major shipping firms are avoiding the southern Red Sea and instead sending vessels traveling between Europe and Asia via a much longer route around southern Africa.

The Houthis have been undeterred by repeated warnings from the US and several rounds of airstrikes on their positions by the American and British militaries in the past fortnight. On Thursday, they again said they would continue their campaign, which they say is in support of Hamas in its war against Israel in Gaza.

Chinese officials have asked their counterparts in Iran to help rein in the ship attacks by Houthis, or risk harming business relations with Beijing, Reuters reported, citing four unidentified Iranian sources and a diplomat familiar with the matter.

Still, China has been critical of the actions by the US and UK, with Beijing’s top envoy in Brussels saying the Houthi attacks are a “spillover” from the Gaza crisis.

The attacks won’t end until “food and medicine arrive for the citizens of Gaza and Israeli crimes stop,” Abdulmalik Al-Houthi, the Houthis’ leader, said in a televised speech. The US and UK will pay for their strikes on Yemen, he said.

The US Treasury Department identified the four sanctioned Houthi officials as Mohamed Al-Atifi, Muhammad Fadl Abd Al-Nabi, Muhammad Ali Al-Qadiri and Muhammad Ahmad Al-Talibi.


--With assistance from Omar Tamo, Nurin Sofia and Jon Herskovitz.

(Updates with report on China in paragraphs six and seven.)

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