Vessel reports missile attack off Yemen’s southern coast

A vessel reported coming under a missile attack off Yemen’s southern coast while transiting the strategic Bab al-Mandeb strait, security agencies said.

Yemen’s Huthi rebels, who have repeatedly targeted Red Sea shipping in recent months, said they had attacked a US ship with “suitable naval missiles”, though it was not immediately clear they were referring to the same incident.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency said in an incident report that the attack occurred before 4am local time.

“The crew are reported safe and the vessel is proceeding to next port of call,” UKMTO said.

Another security firm, Ambrey, said the ship was a Marshall Islands-flagged, Greece-owned bulk carrier and that it “was targeted by missiles in two separate incidents” within 20 minutes.

It “was reportedly hit and sustained physical damage on the starboard side”, Ambrey said, adding that a private armed security team was on board.

The group owner and operator of the bulk carrier targeted today regularly trades cargo with Iran, “so this was assessed to be the likely destination”, Ambrey said.

“The group owner of the bulker was also listed on the US stock market index NASDAQ, which was identified as the likely reason for the attack,” it said.

The Huthis, part of the anti-Western, anti-Israel “axis of resistance” of Iran-backed groups, have been targeting Red Sea shipping vessels since November, triggering US and British reprisal attacks.

Red Sea disruption

The rebels say the attacks are intended to show solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, which has been ravaged by the Israel-Hamas war since October.

“The naval forces of the Yemeni Armed Forces targeted the American ship Star Iris in the Red Sea with a number of suitable naval missiles, and the strikes were accurate and direct,” Huthi spokesman Yahya Saree said in a speech.

The Huthis “will not hesitate to carry out more operations in retaliation to the Zionist crimes against our brothers in the Gaza Strip, as well as in response to the ongoing American-British aggression against our dear country”.

The Huthis’ attacks have prompted some shipping companies to detour around southern Africa to avoid the Red Sea, a vital route that normally carries about 12 percent of global maritime trade.

Israel has bombarded Gaza since the 7 October attacks on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

Palestinian militants seized about 250 hostages, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Israel says 130 are still in Gaza, though 29 are thought to be dead.

Israel has responded with a relentless offensive in Gaza that the territory’s health ministry says has killed at least 28,176 people as of Sunday, mostly women and children.

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