Houthi rebels attack U.S. ships near Yemen

The Houthis in Yemen have attacked at least two more U.S. shipping vessels in the region. Photo by Yahya Arhab/EPA-EFE
The Houthis in Yemen have attacked at least two more U.S. shipping vessels in the region. Photo by Yahya Arhab/EPA-EFE

Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Houthi rebels have attacked at least two more U.S.-owned commercial shipping vessels near Yemen, resulting in both sustaining minor damage and heightening already high tensions in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the United States continues to strike Houthi targets in the civil war-torn country as it seeks to degrade the Houthis' abilities to attack commercial shipping vessels in the region.


The United Kindom Maritime Trade Operations said the attacks occurred Monday near the Bab al-Mandab Strait and the Red Sea.

The latest incident occurred about 60 nautical miles north of Djibouti. The ship was hit by a drone, resulting in the vessel sustaining "superficial damage to the accommodation superstructure," it said, adding that its crew was reported safe and it was continuing to its next port of call.

U.S. Central Command seemingly identified the ship in a statement on Tuesday as the Marshall Islands-flagged, U.S.-owned bulk carrier M/V Navis Fortuna, which it said was struck by a drone at about 7:20 p.m. local time Monday resulting in the vessel sustaining only minor damage and it "continued on its voyage toward Italy."

That attack came hours after the Greek-flagged, U.S.-owned M/V Sea Champion was targeted by two anti-ship ballistic missiles fired from areas of Yemen under the Houthis' control between 12:30 p.m. and 1:50 p.m. as it was transporting grain to the Port of Aden near the Bab al-Mandab Strait, CENTCOM said.


CENTCOM confirmed that one of the missiles detonated near the vessel, causing it minor damage. It said the vessel's crew was still able to reach its destination with grain "for the benefit of the Yemeni people."

"Houthi aggression in the region has exacerbated already high levels of need in conflict-impacted Yemen, which remains one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world, with nearly 80 percent of the entire population needing humanitarian assistance," CENTCOM said in a statement.

"We are committed to countering the Houthis' malign activities, which directly endanger the imports of foodstuff and humanitarian aid to Yemen."

The Houthis have been attacking commercial as well as U.S. and British military vessels in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden in solidarity with the Palestinian people amid Israel's war against Hamas, another Iran proxy militia.

The United States and its allies have been responding to the attacks with those of its own since Jan. 11, stating that it is seeking de-escalation by degrading the Houthis' ability to strike ships.

CENTCOM said that overnight and into Tuesday it and coalition forces shot down 10 one-way attack drones in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden as well as struck a surface-to-air missile launcher. The USS Laboon also shot down an anti-ship cruise missile fired toward it from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, it said.


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