Houthis say US ship hit in Gulf of Aden attack

AFP , Friday 19 Jan 2024

Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed another attack on a US ship early Friday, after the United States launched fresh strikes on rebel targets over their aggression toward Israeli-linked ships in and around the Red Sea, which the Houthis say is to pressure Israel to halt its hostilities in the Gaza Strip and allow aid access for 2.4 million Palestinians suffering under Israel's Gaza war.

Chem Ranger
The specialist website Marine Traffic said the Chem Ranger was a chemical tanker sailing from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to Kuwait. Undated photo circulated on X (formerly Twitter)


While the Houthis maintained they had struck the commercial vessel in the Gulf of Aden, the US military later said the group's missiles had missed their mark.

The Houthis said that their "naval forces... carried out a targeting operation against an American ship" -- identified as the Chem Ranger -- "with several appropriate naval missiles, resulting in direct hits," Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree said Thursday in a statement on X (formerly Twitter).

The spokesman added that Yemen's armed forces "confirm that navigation traffic in the Arab and Red Seas will continue to all destinations around the world except for the ports of occupied Palestine" while vowing to continue blocking "Israeli navigation" and ships "heading to the ports of occupied Palestine" until a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip is achieved.

The US military's Central Command, which is responsible for the Middle East, said the Houthis "launched two anti-ship ballistic missiles at M/V Chem Ranger, a Marshall Island-flagged, US-Owned, Greek-operated tanker" on Thursday night.

"The crew observed the missiles impact the water near the ship. There were no reported injuries or damage to the ship," the command said on social media platform X.

Continued Houthi targeting of Israeli-linked vessels in and around the Red Sea has led to strikes in Yemen by US and British forces, with the United States reporting its latest attack on Houthi targets on Thursday.

The specialist website Marine Traffic said the Chem Ranger was a chemical tanker sailing from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to Kuwait.

British maritime risk management company Ambrey said a Marshallese chemical tanker sailing the same route had reported an incident southeast of the Yemeni port of Aden.

"An Indian warship responded to the event," it said.

The British maritime security agency UKMTO, without identifying the vessel, also reported an incident in the same area, adding in a bulletin that the "vessel and crew are safe, vessel proceeding to next port".

Continued strikes

The Houthis have launched numerous attacks on ships in the waters around Yemen since the Israeli war on Gaza erupted on October 7.

Israel's relentless air and ground invasion of the Gaza Strip has killed at least 24,620 Palestinians, mostly women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

The Houthi statement said the rebels were acting against "the oppression of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and within the response to the American-British aggression against our country".

Separately, a senior Houthi official promised safe passage through the Red Sea for Russian and Chinese vessels.

Some shipping firms are avoiding the waters around Yemen but Mohammed al-Bukhaiti insisted it was safe so long as vessels were not linked to Israel.

"As for all other countries, including Russia and China, their shipping in the region is not threatened," Bukhaiti said in an interview with Russian outlet Izvestia published on Friday.

However, China said the "harassment" of Red Sea shipping must stop.

"We call for an end to the harassment of civilian vessels, in order to maintain the smooth flow of global production and supply chains and the international trade order," foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said.

Russia said on Thursday the United States should halt its strikes against the Houthis to aid a diplomatic resolution to the attacks on merchant vessels.

"The most important thing now is to stop the aggression against Yemen, because the more the Americans and the British bomb, the less willing the Houthis are to talk," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.

US President Joe Biden conceded on Thursday the US counterstrikes had yet to deter the Houthi attacks but added: "Are they going to continue? Yes."

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that US forces on Thursday had hit "a couple of anti-ship missiles that we had reason to believe were being prepared for imminent fire into the southern Red Sea".

Several major shipping firms have halted their traffic through the area because of the Houthi attacks.

Denmark said Thursday it would join the coalition behind the air strikes against the Houthis.

The Scandinavian country, which has said it would send a frigate to the region, is home to shipping giant Maersk, which is among the firms to have rerouted ships away from the Red Sea.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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