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26 Dec, 2023 22:56

Yemen’s Houthis claim responsibility for latest attack on Red Sea ship

The group's targeting of allegedly Israel-linked vessels has continued despite US threats
Yemen’s Houthis claim responsibility for latest attack on Red Sea ship

Yemen’s Houthis said on Tuesday that they had fired missiles at a cargo ship in the waters of the Red Sea, after it ignored repeated warning messages. The Houthis have been shooting at allegedly “Israeli-linked” vessels for weeks.

Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) confirmed that one of their vessels had been fired upon, identifying it as the MSC United VIII, en route to Karachi, Pakistan from King Abdullah Port in Saudi Arabia. According to MSC, the incident happened at approximately 3:25am local time.

“The vessel informed a nearby coalition task force warship of the attack and as instructed, engaged in evasive maneuvers,” the company said in a statement. “Currently, all crew are safe with no reported injuries and a thorough assessment of the vessel is being conducted.”

Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree said that the Yemeni Armed Forces had “carried out a targeting operation” against the commercial vessel after its crew did not respond to “repeated fiery warning messages.”

The Shia militant group, which controls the Yemeni capital, announced in late October that it would fire missiles at Israel and target ships in any way connected to Israel to support the Palestinians of Gaza.

Yemen controls the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which connects the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. An estimated 12% of global maritime trade passes through the area, heading to and from the Suez Canal.

Over a dozen confirmed attacks on ships since October have resulted in major shipping lines being rerouted around the Cape of Good Hope, caught between skyrocketing insurance premiums and higher costs of operations. Following the incident with the United VIII, MSC has confirmed that it intends to continue routing ships around Africa.

Later on Tuesday, the shipping giant Maersk announced it would resume sailing through the Suez Canal, citing the presence of an international naval task force the US has dubbed Operation Prosperity Guardian. Several countries that the Pentagon had announced are taking part of the coalition – France, Italy, Spain, Norway and Denmark – have since bowed out, however.

On Tuesday evening, US Central Command (CENTCOM) said that its ships and airplanes shot down “twelve one-way attack drones, three anti-ship ballistic missiles, and two land attack cruise missiles” launched by the Houthis during the course of the day, starting at 6:30am local time.

CENTCOM said that the destroyer USS Laboon and F/A-18 Super Hornet jets from the USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier strike group took part in the operation and that there had been no damage to ships in the area or injuries to their crews.

The Houthis have said they intend to continue their operations, even if the US managed to mobilize “the entire world” and threatened to strike back if American ships dare to target Yemen.