June 22nd, 2024

Missile attacks damage a ship in the Red Sea off Yemen’s coast near previous Houthi rebel assaults

By Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press on May 28, 2024.

This is a locator map for Yemen with its capital, Sanaa. (AP Photo)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Missile attacks twice damaged a Marshall Islands-flagged, Greek-owned ship Tuesday in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, with a private security firm saying radio traffic suggested the vessel took on water after being struck.

No group claimed responsibility, but suspicion fell on Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who have launched a number of attacks targeting ships over Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The first attack on the bulk carrier Laax happened off the port city of Hodeida in the southern Red Sea, near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait that links it to the Gulf of Aden, according to the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center. The vessel “sustained damage” in the assault and later reported an “impact in the water in close proximity to the vessel,” the UKMTO said.

“The crew are reported safe and the vessel is proceeding to its next port of call,” the center said.

The private security firm Ambrey said the vessel reported by radio of having “sustained damage to the cargo hold and was taking on water.”

Late Tuesday night, the UKMTO reported the Laax “sustained further damage” in a second missile attack near Mokha in the Bab el-Mandeb.

The U.S. military’s Central Command also identified the targeted ship as the Laax. The vessel reported being headed to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.

Grehel Ship Management of Piraeus, Greece, manages the Laax. A man who answered the phone at Grehel declined to answer questions about the attack and an emailed request for comment was not returned.

Central Command separately said it destroyed five Houthi drones over the Red Sea amid the attacks.

The Houthis did not immediately acknowledge the attack, though it can take the rebels hours or even days to claim their assaults.

The Houthis have launched attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden in recent months, demanding that Israel ends the war in Gaza, which has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians there. The war began after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking some 250 hostage.

The rebels have launched more than 50 attacks on shipping, seized one vessel and sunk another since November, according to the United States Maritime Administration.

Shipping through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden has declined because of the threat. In recent weeks, the tempo of Houthi attacks has dropped, though the rebels have claimed shooting down U.S. surveillance drones.

Yemen has been wracked by conflict since the rebels seized the capital, Sanaa, in 2014. A Saudi-led coalition entered the war on the side of Yemen’s exiled government in 2015, but the conflict has remained at a stalemate for years as Riyadh tries to reach a peace deal with the Houthis.

Speaking Tuesday in Dubai, the prime minister of Yemen’s exiled, internationally recognized government urged the world to see past the Houthis’ claims of backing the Palestinians through their attacks.

“The Houthis’ exploitation of a very just cause such as the cause of our people in Palestine and what is happening in Gaza is to escape the benefits of peace and lead us to major complications that exist,” Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak told the Arab Media Forum. “Peace is a strategic choice. We must reach peace. The war must stop. This is a must. Our people need security and stability. The region itself needs stability.”

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