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  4. Yemen's Houthis attack two vessels in Red Sea, one sustains minor damage as tensions escalate

Yemen's Houthis attack two vessels in Red Sea, one sustains minor damage as tensions escalate

A Barbados-flagged British-owned vessel in the Red Sea sustained minor damage during the attack in the Red Sea, but no one was injured. This came after joint airstrikes by the US and the UK, along with other countries, in Yemen as tensions reach boiling point over the war in Gaza.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Sanaa (Yemen) Published on: February 06, 2024 18:29 IST
Yemen, Houthis attack ships, red sea crisis, United States
Image Source : AP A RAF Typhoon FGR4 aircraft returns to base following strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen.

Red Sea crisis: Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthis on Tuesday once again flared escalating tensions in the Middle East region by firing missiles at two vessels in the strategic Red Sea, causing minor damage to a cargo ship sailing off the coast of Yemen's Hodeidah. This comes as the US and its allies have attacked the rebel group with waves of airstrikes amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

The group's military spokesman Yahya Saree on Tuesday said it fired naval missiles at the Morning Tide and Star Nasia, identifying the Barbados and Marshall Islands-flagged ships, respectively, as British and American. British maritime security firm Ambrey said the Barbados-flagged ship suffered damage from a drone while sailing through the Red Sea but no injuries were reported.

British firm Furadino Shipping, the owner of Morning Tide, said the ship was currently sailing without any problems. The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) also took note of a projectile causing "slight damage" to the port side of the vessel, adding that a small vessel was seen nearby before the attack.

LSEG ship-tracking data showed the Morning Tide was sailing down through the Red Sea having come through the Suez Canal on Friday. Its most recent signal shows it sailing out of the Red Sea through the Bab al-Mandab Strait. The Houthis have been targeting commercial vessels with drones and missiles in the Red Sea since mid-November, to show solidarity for Palestinians amid the Israel-Hamas war.

US-led strikes on Houthi targets

This development comes after the United States and the United Kingdom, supported by allies including Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, conducted additional strikes against Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen. The coalition forces targeted 13 locations associated with the Houthis, focusing on deeply buried weapons storage facilities, missile systems, launchers, air defense systems, and radars.

A joint statement from the US, the UK, and coalition partners highlighted the proportionate and necessary strikes against 36 Houthi targets across 13 locations in response to continued Houthi attacks on international shipping and naval vessels. The statement pointed to a series of illegal, dangerous, and destabilising Houthi actions since previous coalition strikes in January 2024.

Prior to that, a US air assault on Friday in Iraq and Syria targeted other Iranian-backed militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, killing at least 40, in retaliation for a drone strike that killed three US troops in Jordan. The US military’s Central Command separately acknowledged an attack on Monday on the Houthis, in which they attacked what they described as two Houthi drone boats loaded with explosives.

The Houthis have attacked shipping routes in the Red Sea as part of what they say is their response to Israel's campaign against the Palestinian militants, who are - like the Houthis - backed by Iran. The Houthi attacks have prompted the US and Britain to launch waves of strikes on rebel-held areas in Yemen.

Houthis vow 'revenge' for airstrikes

After the Saturday airstrikes, the Yemen-based group vowed to take "revenge", with Saree saying the strikes "will not pass without a response and consequences". The violence has added to concerns of the potential for further escalation of the war in Gaza. Iran, a supporter of Hamas, has so far avoided any direct role in the conflict, even as groups it backs have entered the fray from Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.

Iran's foreign ministry said the latest attacks on Yemen were "a flagrant violation of international law by the United States and Britain", warning the continuation of such attacks was a "worrying threat to international peace and security". The Pentagon has said it does not want war with Iran and does not believe Tehran wants war either. 

Major shipping lines have largely abandoned Red Sea shipping lanes due to Houthi attacks for longer routes around Africa. This has increased costs, feeding worries about global inflation while denying Egypt crucial foreign revenue from the use of the Suez Canal.

"These attacks will not deter us from our ethical, religious and humanitarian stance in support of the resilient Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip," Saree said after a dozen airstrikes.

(with inputs from airstrikes)

ALSO READ | Yemen sacks its Prime Minister as US, British militaries launch joint strikes against Houthi sites

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