US military says seized Iranian-made missile parts enroute to Yemen Houthis

AFP , Tuesday 16 Jan 2024

The US military said Tuesday it seized Iranian-made missile parts en route to Yemen's Houthi rebels from a boat in the Arabian Sea, the first such operation since the start of Houthi attacks against Israeli-linked vessels in solidarity with Palestinians suffering under Israel's war on the Gaza Strip.

US Central Command said it seized Iranian advanced weapons on a sailing vessel bound for Yemen. Photo courtesy of US CENTCOM Official on X (formerly Twitter)


The parts, which were seized in a Navy SEAL operation Thursday in international waters near the coast of Somalia, consisted of both "Iranian-made ballistic missile and cruise missiles components," US Central Command said in a statement on X.

The statement revealed that two SEALS already reported as lost at sea were involved in the mission, with "an exhaustive search" still underway, according to US Central Command chief Michael Kurilla.

"This is the first seizure of lethal, Iranian-supplied advanced conventional weapons (ACW) to the Houthis since the beginning of Houthi attacks against merchant ships in November 2023," CENTCOM said.

"Seized items include propulsion, guidance, and warheads for Houthi medium range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) and anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), as well as air defense associated components," it added.

"Initial analysis indicates these same weapons have been employed by the Houthis to threaten and attack innocent mariners on international merchant ships transiting in the Red Sea," it said.

The weapons parts were seized from a dhow -- a traditional masted sailing vessel -- with 14 crewmembers whose disposition was "being determined in accordance with international law."

The boat itself was deemed unsafe and sunk, the statement added, without providing additional details.

The announcement of the seizure comes after US and British forces on Friday hit scores of Houthi targets across Yemen, a move triggered by the rebels' attacks on Israeli-linked vessels aimed at pressuring Israel to stop its ground invasion of Gaza and allow unfettered aid access for some 2.4 million Palestinians suffering under Israel's siege of the strip.

Israel's brutal war on Gaza and the attacks by and against the Houthis have raised concerns about violence spreading in the region from the Gaza war.

"It is clear that Iran continues shipment of advanced lethal aid to the Houthis. This is yet another example of how Iran actively sows instability throughout the region," Kurilla said, adding that Tehran's actions violated both a UN security resolution and international law.

Meanwhile, the US and Israel's Western allies continue to supply Israel with lethal weapons and munitions which Israel has used to target hospitals, UN-run schools and designated "safe areas" where 85 percent of Gazans displaced by Israel's war seek shelter from indiscriminate Israeli bombardment of the strip.

Around 12 percent of global trade normally passes through the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, the Red Sea's entrance, and the Suez Canal, connecting Asia and European markets, but the Houthi attacks have caused much shipping to be diverted thousands of miles around Africa.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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