Cruise Missile: Missiles from rebel territory in Yemen miss a ship near key Bab el-Mandeb Strait, US official says




DUBAI: Two missiles fired from territory held by Yemen‘s Houthi rebels missed a commercial tanker near the key Bab el-Mandeb Strait on Wednesday, a US official said. An American warship also shot down a suspected Houthi drone flying in its direction during the incident, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.No one was hurt in the attack, the official said.
The ship that was targeted, the oil and chemical tanker Marshall Islands-flagged Ardmore Encounter, was travelling north toward the Suez Canal in the Red Sea, satellite tracking data analyzed by The Associated Press showed. The vessel had been coming from India and had an armed security crew aboard it, according to data transmitted by the ship.
Ardmore Shipping Corp., which owns and operates the ship, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company trades on the New York Stock Exchange and shares were slightly up in aftermarket trading to $13.64 a share.
The Houthis did not immediately acknowledge the attack. The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which provides warnings to sailors in the Middle East, earlier reported an incident in the same area of the Ardmore Encounter. It also reported an incident occurring off the coast of Oman.
The recent rebel assaults expand a campaign by the Iranian-backed rebels targeting ships close to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait into apparently now striking those that have no clear ties to Israel. That potentially imperils cargo and energy shipments coming through the Suez Canal and further widens the international impact of the Israel-Hamas war now raging in the Gaza Strip.
On Monday night, a missile also fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels slammed into a Norwegian-flagged tanker in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.
The Houthis have carried out a series of attacks on vessels in the Red Sea and 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. There was no immediate link found between the Ardmore Encounter and Israel.
Analysts suggest the Houthis hope to shore up waning popular support after years of civil war in Yemen between the rebels and Saudi-backed forces.
France and the United States have stopped short of saying their ships were targeted in rebel attacks, but have said Houthi drones have headed toward their ships and were shot down in self-defense. Washington so far has declined to directly respond to the attacks, as has Israel, whose military continues to insist the ships do not have links to their country.
Global shipping has increasingly been targeted as the Israel-Hamas war threatens to become a wider regional conflict – even during a brief pause in fighting during which 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.
The Bab el-Mandeb Strait is only 29 km (18 miles) wide at its narrowest point, limiting traffic to two channels for inbound and outbound shipments, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Nearly 10% of all oil traded at sea passes through it. An estimated $1 trillion in goods pass through the strait annually.
In November, Houthis seized a vehicle transport ship linked to Israel in the Red Sea off Yemen. The rebels still hold the vessel near the port city of Hodeida. Separately, a container ship owned by an Israeli billionaire came under attack by a suspected Iranian drone in the Indian Ocean.
A separate, tentative cease-fire between the Houthis and a Saudi-led coalition fighting on behalf of Yemen’s exiled government has held for months despite that country’s long war. That’s raised concerns that any wider conflict in the sea – or a potential reprisal strike from Western forces – could reignite those tensions in the Arab world’s poorest nation.
In 2016, the US launched Tomahawk cruise missiles that destroyed three coastal radar sites in Houthi-controlled territory to retaliate for missiles being fired at US Navy ships at the time.


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