Yemen rebels fire missile at cargo ship in Red Sea: US official

AFP , Thursday 14 Dec 2023

Yemen's Iran-backed Huthis fired a missile at a cargo ship en route to Saudi Arabia on Thursday but missed, a US official and a private intelligence firm said.

The Norwegian-flagged chemical tanker the MT Strinda
FILE PHOTO: The Norwegian-flagged chemical tanker the MT Strinda. AFP

 

No one was hurt in the incident involving the Maersk Gibraltar, which was sailing from Salalah, Oman to Jeddah, said the Danish shipping giant.

"The crew and vessel are reported safe," Maersk said in a statement, adding that the company was "still working to establish the facts of the incident".

A US official said, "We have indications that a missile was fired at the Maersk Gibraltar from a Huthi-controlled area of Yemen and that it hit the water and missed the ship".

The official was speaking on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorized to make the statement publicly.

The attack came amid a near-daily stream of drones and missiles fired at ships by the rebels, who say they are supporting the Palestinian side in the Israeli war on Gaza.

Maersk said that "the recent attacks on commercial vessels... are extremely concerning".

"The current situation puts seafarer lives at risk and is unsustainable for global trade. As it cannot be solved by the global shipping industry on its own, we call on political action to ensure a swift de-escalation."

Intelligence firm Ambrey said that the Hong-Kong flagged, Marshall Islands-owned ship was fired upon 45 nautical miles off the coast of Mocha and also said that the crew was unharmed.

"Ambrey understands that the parent company has cooperated with an Israeli carrier but this particular vessel was not assessed to be Israeli-operated at the time of writing," the firm said in a statement.

The Huthis have said they would target any ships traveling off the coast of Yemen with links to Israel. They did not immediately claim responsibility.

The attack occurred near Bab-el-Mandeb, the strait between Yemen and northeast Africa leading to the Red Sea, a key route toward the Suez Canal and Israel's southern port of Eilat.

The Maersk Gibraltar is a 340-metre (1,115-foot) container ship built in 2016, according to MarineTraffic.com.

As they did with several other vessels recently, the Huthis first ordered it to dock in a Yemeni port before firing on it when it did not comply, Ambrey said.

The Huthis, who control much of Yemen but are not recognized internationally, are part of the so-called "axis of resistance", backed by Iran and arrayed against Israel.

On Saturday, they said they "will prevent the passage of ships heading to the Zionist entity" if food and medicine are not allowed into besieged, Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Regardless of which flagships sail under or the nationality of their owners or operators, Israel-bound vessels "will become a legitimate target for our armed forces," the statement said.

US, French, and British warships are patrolling the area and several Huthi missiles have been shot down while in flight.

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