Houthi rebels claim Red Sea ship attacks

Iran-backed Yemeni group vows to escalate aggression towards Israel-linked vessels in revenge for Gaza war

The Galaxy Leader cargo ship, seized by Houthi rebel fighters two days earlier, at a port on the Red Sea in Yemen's province of Hodeida
Houthi fighters seized the British-owned, Israel-linked Galaxy Leader cargo ship last month and re-routed the vessel to a port in Yemen
(Image credit: AFP via Getty Images)

A US warship opened fire in defence of a British merchant ship and two other commercial vessels targeted in a drone and missile assault yesterday in the Red Sea.

According to a statement from US Central Command, the USS Carney shot down three drones during four attacks, after responding to distress calls. The attacks were believed to have been launched from Yemen's Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa, and "enabled by Iran", the statement said.

The "hours-long" assault marked a "major escalation" of recent maritime attacks in Middle Eastern waters linked to the Israel-Hamas war, said The Independent. Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attacks on two of the vessels, which "they described as being linked to Israel". 

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 The Israeli military said Israel had no connections to the vessels, one of which, Unity Explorer, is a UK-owned and operated cargo ship flying under the Bahamas flag.

A Houthi military spokesperson said its forces would "continue to prevent Israeli ships from navigating the Red Sea (and Gulf of Aden) until the Israeli aggression against our steadfast brothers in the Gaza Strip stops". 

The Iran-backed rebel group has recently "stepped up its targeting of commercial vessels" in the Red Sea, said The Guardian, "which lies south of the Suez Canal, a strategic naval route between Europe and Asia and east Africa". 

Two weeks ago, the Houthis seized what they described as an Israeli cargo ship in the Red Sea, and warned that all vessels linked to Israel would become "a legitimate target". 

The USS Carney has shot down "multiple rockets" fired by the Yemeni rebels towards Israel since the war in Gaza began, said The Associated Press.

Two ships were damaged during Sunday's attack, but no casualties or injuries were reported. 

The Houthis – which have controlled parts of Yemen since toppling the country's government in 2014 – say they are part of "axis of resistance" of Iran-linked groups against Israel and the West.

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