Houthi Missile Attack Damages Ship in Red Sea, U.S. Military Intercepts Drone

Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched a missile attack in the Red Sea on Monday, damaging a ship in the crucial maritime route. The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center reported the attack off the coast of Mokha, Yemen. Fortunately, although the ship was damaged, its crew is safe and heading to its next port of call. The UKMTO has urged vessels to exercise caution in the area.

According to the UKMTO, there was “an explosion in close proximity to a merchant vessel,” but both the vessel and crew are reported safe.

The ship damaged was identified by the U.S. military’s Central Command as the Cyclades, a Malta-flagged, Greece-owned bulk carrier. Additionally, the military intercepted a drone heading towards the USS Philippine Sea and USS Laboon.

Houthi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree claimed responsibility for the attack on the Cyclades and the targeting of the U.S. warships in a statement released early Tuesday.

In a separate incident on Monday, the Italian Defense Ministry announced that its frigate Virgino Fasan had shot down a Houthi drone near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. The ministry reported, “A missile exploded in the water in the vicinity of the escorted vessel, causing only minor superficial damage.” However, the commercial vessel being escorted was not identified. “The frigate Fasan and the protected merchant vessel are continuing their southward route as planned to exit the Red Sea,” the ministry stated.

While Saree did not acknowledge the attack on the Italian frigate, he claimed that the Houthis had also targeted a ship in the Indian Ocean. However, there has been no immediate report or evidence to support this claim.

The Houthis claim that their attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden are aimed at pressuring Israel to end its war against Hamas in Gaza, which has resulted in the deaths of more than 34,000 Palestinians. The war escalated after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on October 7, resulting in the deaths of 1,200 people and the hostage-taking of 250 others.

According to the U.S. Maritime Administration, the Houthis have launched more than 50 attacks on shipping, seized one vessel, and sunk another since November.

Houthi attacks have decreased in recent weeks due to a U.S.-led airstrike campaign in Yemen. Shipping through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden has declined due to the threat.

American officials speculate that the rebels may be running out of weapons as a result of the U.S.-led campaign against them and after firing drones and missiles steadily for months. However, the rebels have renewed their attacks in the past week. Early Sunday morning, the U.S. military shot down five drones in the air over the Red Sea, according to Central Command.

The Houthis claimed on Saturday that they had shot down another of the U.S. military’s MQ-9 Reaper drones, airing footage of parts that corresponded to known pieces of the unmanned aircraft. U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bryon J. McGarry, a Defense Department spokesperson, acknowledged to The Associated Press on Saturday that “a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 drone crashed in Yemen.” He said an investigation was underway, without elaborating.

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