Dubai, United Arab Emirates – A ship off the coast of Yemen in the Red Sea has come under attack, according to reports from private intelligence firms on Tuesday.
Attack Amid Increased Threats
The attack on the vessel takes place amidst growing threats issued by Yemen’s Houthi rebels against commercial shipping in the area due to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip. While the Houthis have not claimed responsibility for the attack yet, Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree, a rebel military spokesperson, hinted at an upcoming significant announcement.
Crucial Strait Targeted
Private intelligence firms Ambrey and Dryad Global have confirmed that the attack occurred near the strategically vital Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which separates East Africa from the Arabian Peninsula.
Ship and Response Details
Dryad Global has identified the targeted vessel as the Strinda, a Norwegian-owned-and-operated ship that had reported having armed guards on board as it sailed through the strait. The ship’s managers have not yet provided any comments regarding the incident. The Strinda, an oil-and-chemical carrier, was en route from Malaysia to the Suez Canal.
The U.S. and British militaries have not yet responded to requests for comment. However, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), responsible for issuing warnings to sailors in the Middle East, had earlier reported a fire aboard an unidentified vessel near Mokha, Yemen, with confirmation that all crew members were safe. The coordinates of the fire match with the last known location of the Strinda. Currently, it remains unclear what type of weapon was used in the attack.
Houthi Attacks and Israeli Threats
Backed by Iran, the Houthi rebels have carried out a series of attacks on vessels in the Red Sea and have also launched drones and missiles targeting Israel. In recent days, they have specifically threatened to attack any vessel believed to be heading to or coming from Israel. However, no immediate connection has been established between the Strinda and Israel.
Yemen’s Houthi Rebels Increase Attacks on International Ships
Recent attacks on international ships by the Houthi rebels in Yemen have raised concerns about the escalating conflict in the region. Analysts suggest that these attacks are an attempt by the rebels to regain popular support, which has been waning after years of civil war between the Houthis and Saudi-backed forces.
France and the U.S. have reported incidents of Houthi drones heading towards their ships, but they have not explicitly stated that their ships were targeted. However, they have confirmed that the drones were shot down in self-defense. Surprisingly, both Washington and Israel have refrained from direct retaliation, with the latter stating that the targeted ships have no links to their country.
The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas has also contributed to the increase in ship attacks. The recent collapse of a temporary truce and the resumption of Israeli ground offensives and airstrikes on Gaza have heightened the risk of further naval attacks.
Notably, in November, the Houthis seized a vehicle transport ship in the Red Sea that was linked to Israel. The rebels still hold this vessel near the port city of Hodeida. Additionally, an Israeli billionaire’s container ship was attacked by a suspected Iranian drone in the Indian Ocean.
Despite an ongoing tentative cease-fire between the Houthis and a Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen’s exiled government, there are concerns that any wider conflict at sea or potential reprisal strikes from Western forces could reignite tensions in Yemen, the poorest nation in the Arab world.
It is worth mentioning that in 2016, the U.S. responded to missiles being fired at their Navy ships by launching Tomahawk cruise missiles, destroying three coastal radar sites in Houthi-controlled territory.
The situation in Yemen remains volatile, with escalating ship attacks posing a significant challenge to international maritime security.