Private intelligence firms say ship was attacked off Yemen as Houthi rebel threats grow

Advertisement

A ship off the coast of Yemen in the Red Sea has been attacked, private intelligence firms said Tuesday. The attack on the vessel comes as threats have increased from Yemen’s Houthi rebels on commercial shipping in the area over the Israel-Hamas war raging in the Gaza Strip. The Houthis did not immediately claim responsibility for the attack, though rebel military spokesperson Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree said an important announcement would be coming from them soon. The private intelligence firms Ambrey and Dryad Global confirmed the attack happened near the crucial Bab el-Mandeb Strait separating East Africa from the Arabian Peninsula.

Dryad Global identified the vessel attacked as the Strinda, a Norwegian-owned-and-operated ship that had broadcast it had armed guards aboard as it went through the strait. The ship’s managers did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Tuesday. The vessel, an oil and chemical carrier, was coming from Malaysia and was bound for the Suez Canal. The US and British militaries did not immediately respond to requests for comment. However, the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which provides warnings to sailors in the Middle East, earlier reported a fire aboard an unidentified vessel off Mokha, Yemen, with all the crew aboard being safe.

The coordinates of that fire correspond to the last known location of the Strinda. The Iranian-backed Houthis have carried out a series of attacks on vessels in the Red Sea and also launched drones and missiles targeting Israel. In recent days, they have threatened to attack any vessel they believe is either going to or coming from Israel, though there was no immediate apparent link between the Strinda and Israel. Analysts suggest the Houthis hope to shore up waning popular support after years of civil war in Yemen between it and Saudi-backed forces. France and the US have stopped short of saying their ships were targeted in rebel attacks, but have said Houthi drones have headed toward their ships and have been shot down in self-defence. Washington so far has declined to directly respond to the attacks, as has Israel, whose military continues to describe the ships as not having links to their country.

Advertisement

Global shipping has increasingly been targeted as the Israel-Hamas war threatens to become a wider regional conflict – even as a truce briefly halted fighting and Hamas exchanged hostages for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. The collapse of the truce and the resumption of a punishing Israeli ground offensive and airstrikes on Gaza have raised the risk of more sea attacks.