Latest News 05-03-2024 00:02 8 Views

Houthi missile attack sets ship ablaze in Gulf of Aden as assaults escalate

Houthi militants in Yemen have claimed responsibility for a missile attack that set a ship ablaze in the Gulf of Aden on Monday. 

The private security firm Ambrey described the vessel targeted as a Liberia-flagged, Israel-affiliated container ship that sustained damage and issued a distress call.

'The container ship reportedly encountered two explosions of which the first occurred at a 'distance' off its port quarter, while the second damaged the vessel's accommodation block and a container leading,' Ambrey said. 'The explosion further led to a fire onboard and the crew's firefighting efforts were underway.'

No crew member on the ship was injured, Ambrey said. 

Houthi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree claimed the attack in a prerecorded statement. He identified the ship as the MSC Sky II, sailing for the Switzerland-based firm Mediterranean Shipping Co, but sought to link the vessel to Israel. The ship's details and last-known location corresponded to details about the attack.

The Houthis 'will continue to prevent Israeli navigation or those heading to the ports of occupied Palestine until the aggression is stopped and the siege on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip is lifted,' Saree said.

The Houthis have been targeting ships in the Red Sea and surrounding waters since November. The rebels have said their assaults are to protest Palestinians killed in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, though the group has targeted at least one vessel with cargo bound for Iran, the group’s main benefactor, and an aid ship later bound for Houthi-controlled territory.

Despite more than a month and a half of U.S.-led airstrikes, Houthi attacks have been unrelenting. They include the attack last month on a cargo ship carrying fertilizer, the Rubymar, which sank on Saturday after drifting for several days, and the downing of an American drone worth tens of millions of dollars.

Meanwhile, three Red Sea underwater cables providing internet and telecommunications around the world have been cut, though the Houthis have denied any involvement.  

The cut lines include Asia-Africa-Europe 1, the Europe India Gateway, Seacom and TGN-Gulf, Hong Kong-based HGC Global Communications said. It described the cuts as affecting 25% of the traffic flowing through the Red Sea. It described the Red Sea route as crucial for data moving from Asia to Europe and said it had begun rerouting traffic.

In early February, Yemen's internationally recognized government in exile alleged that the Houthis planned to attack the cables. The lines appeared to have been cut on Feb. 24, with the organization NetBlocks noticing internet access in the East African nation of Djibouti suffering from interruptions two days later. 

The rebels, for their part, have blamed the disruptions on British and U.S. military operations, but didn't offer evidence to support the allegation..

'The hostilities on Yemen by the British and U.S. naval military units caused a disruption in the submarine cables in the Red Sea, which jeopardized the security and safety of international communications and the normal flow of information,' the Houthi-controlled Transportation Ministry in Yemen's rebel-held capital, Sanaa, alleged.

It remains unclear how the Houthis could attack subsea cables themselves. The rebels aren't known to have the diving or salvage capability to target the lines, which sit hundreds of meters below the surface of the waterway.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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