Yemen rebels claim missile strike on Greek cargo ship

AFP , Tuesday 16 Jan 2024

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels on Tuesday claimed a missile strike on a Greek-owned cargo ship in the Red Sea, the latest in a string of attacks.



The attacks have heightened fears of the Israeli war on Gaza flaring across the region and disrupted trade in one of the world's key maritime commercial routes.

Maritime risk management company Ambrey said a "Malta-flagged, Greek-owned bulk carrier was reportedly targeted and impacted with a missile while transiting the southern Red Sea northbound".

The ship, which has visited Israel since the outbreak of war in Gaza and was headed to the Suez Canal, changed course and headed to port after the incident, Ambrey said.

A source within the Greek maritime affairs ministry named the ship as the Zografia, a 24-crew vessel, and said it had been sailing from Vietnam to Israel.

The Zografia "sustained limited damage... but remains in a navigable condition, and is continuing its journey", the source said, adding that there were no injuries on board.

The Houthis, who say they attack what they consider Israeli-linked shipping in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza since the war there started on October 7, claimed responsibility for the strike later on Tuesday.

They said their forces "carried out a targeting operation" against the ship with multiple naval missiles after the crew did not respond to warnings, vowing to continue such attacks "until the (Israeli) aggression stops and the siege on... the Gaza Strip is lifted".

United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, a maritime security agency run by the British navy, also reported an "incident" in an area northwest of Saleef in Yemen, without giving further details.

Risk of escalation

The Houthis also launched attacks on American vessels on Sunday and Monday following US and UK strikes on their territory last week.

They declared US and British interests "legitimate targets" after the Western allies struck scores of sites in rebel-held Yemen on Friday in retaliation for the Red Sea attacks.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Tuesday, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan insisted his country sought "to stop the spread of conflict and to create the conditions for de-escalation".

Earlier, Qatar's prime minister said liquefied natural gas shipments would be affected by tensions in the Red Sea, and warned that strikes on Yemen risk aggravating the crisis.

"LNG is... as any other merchant shipments. They will be affected," Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told the Forum, referring to the exchanges with the Houthis.

Alternative routes are "less efficient than the current route", he added.

British oil giant Shell indefinitely suspended all shipments through the Red Sea last week due to the Houthi threat, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

It joins several major shipping companies in diverting vessels away from the key route between Asia and European markets, which normally carries about 12 percent of global maritime trade, on a major detour around southern Africa.

Bloomberg reported on Monday that at least five LNG vessels operated by Qatar had stopped en route to the Red Sea.

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