Houthis Target US, UK Vessels Amid Maritime Security Concerns

On Tuesday, Yemen’s Huthi rebels, supported by Iran, announced that they had targeted two vessels belonging to the United States and Britain in distinct assaults within the Red Sea. According to a statement from a Huthi military spokesperson, the initial strike aimed at an American vessel named Star Nasia, followed by a second attack on a British ship identified as Morning Tide. The vessels were sailing in the strait that connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden and is a crucial route for shipping between Asia, Africa, and Europe. The US and the UK, backed by six allied countries, have been targeting missile arsenals and other facilities used by the rebels to endanger maritime trade in the vital waterway.

The US has accused the Houthis of attacking ships in violation of international law and has imposed sanctions on the rebels. The Houthis have fired on commercial and military ships nearly 40 times since November, leading to lengthy detours for global shipping as companies avoid the area. Last month, the US redesignated the Houthis as a terrorist organization. We warned they would face sanctions if they continued to target shipping in the Red Sea over Israel’s war in Gaza against Hamas.

A senior official from the International Maritime Bureau, which oversees safety at sea, criticized the rebels for the recent attacks. “It’s a very worrying development, and it will affect the freedom of navigation in one of the world’s busiest sea lanes,” the official, who requested anonymity, told CNN. The official added that the IMB was urging donors who had suspended funding to the group because of the claims to reconsider their decisions.

Security firm Ambrey had earlier reported a drone attack on a British-owned cargo ship that was escorted by the USS Carney, a destroyer supporting the coalition fighting the Houthis. The vessel was carrying containers from the Marshall Islands to a port in the Red Sea. Central Command confirmed the ship, the M/V Ocean Jazz, was hit by a single anti-ship ballistic missile but did not say how it was damaged or if any crew members were injured. Central Command said that the Carney and other ships sailed toward the stricken ship, which had sent out a distress call, and rescued all crewmembers.

In a joint statement, the US and UK said they had carried out eight airstrikes on Monday night with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands. The strikes targeted a Houthi underground missile storage site and other facilities used to target commercial shipping in the Red Sea and Arabian Sea. A UK defense minister, Grant Shapps, said the strikes dealt a blow to the rebels’ limited stockpiles and ability to threaten global trade.

In his statement, the US spokesman for the joint effort, Brigadier General Yahya Saree, vowed to retaliate. He said the Houthis will not stop attacking shipping “until the American-British aggression ends and the siege on our steadfast brothers in the Gaza Strip is lifted.” The attacks came just hours after US President Joe Biden said the US and allied partners had carried out “successful precision strikes” to degrade the ability of the Houthis to threaten international maritime trade.

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