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Houthi Missile Attack Damages British-Owned Ship Off Yemen

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels fired two missiles at a British-owned cargo ship passing through the Gulf of Aden on Thursday, causing one minor injury and damage to the vessel.

The rebels, who control much of Yemen, have carried out months of attacks on merchant vessels in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, disrupting the key shipping route and prompting a military response from the US, Britain, and recently France.

“A vessel was attacked by two missiles, resulting in a fire onboard,” United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said, adding that “coalition forces are responding.”

Security firm Ambrey said the ship appeared to be headed towards the Red Sea from its port of origin in Thailand. 

US Central Command (CENTCOM) identified the vessel as the British-owned, Palau-flagged cargo ship MV Islander. 

The attack caused “one minor injury and damage. The ship is continuing its voyage,” CENTCOM said.

The Houthis said their “naval forces conducted a targeted operation against a British ship in the Gulf of Aden, using a number of suitable naval missiles that directly hit it, causing a fire to break out.”

They said they had also targeted a US destroyer in the Red Sea with a number of drones. 

CENTCOM said that US aircraft and an allied warship separately shot down six drones launched by the Houthis. France said one of its frigates shot down two drones.

Israel Intercepts Houthi Missile

The Houthis said they had also “fired a number of ballistic missiles and drones at various targets of the Zionist enemy” in the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat. 

The missile launch set off air raid sirens in Eilat but air defenses intercepted it, the Israeli military said. 

The Houthis say their attacks – which they began carrying out in November – are in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza amid the Israel-Hamas war

They have triggered reprisal strikes on Yemen by the United States and Britain, with the Houthis responding by targeting US and British ships.

The rebels vowed that their fighters would “persist in upholding their religious, moral, and humanitarian duties towards the Palestinian people… in the face of American-British aggression.”

The Houthi attacks have prompted some shipping firms to take the much longer route around the southern tip of Africa to avoid the Red Sea, which normally carries about 12 percent of global maritime trade. 

The UN Conference on Trade and Development said late last month that the volume of commercial traffic passing through the Suez Canal between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean had fallen more than 40 percent in the previous two months.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Monday that revenues from the Suez Canal had “decreased by 40 to 50 percent” so far this year due to attacks on shipping.

The US State Department said Wednesday that the Houthi strikes are “driving up prices and causing delivery delays in critical humanitarian items, such as food and medicine.”

“This is adversely affecting those in need of assistance around the world, including in Sudan, Ethiopia, and in Yemen itself,” it said.

In a bid to deter more Red Sea attacks, the European Union launched a naval mission on Monday, complementing an existing one spearheaded by the United States.

The mission – called Aspides, Greek for “shield” – should be up and running in a “few weeks” with at least four vessels, an EU official said last week.

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