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Yemen’s Houthis Claim Attacks on Ships: But Reports Conflict

Yemen's Houthis Claim Attacks on Ships: But Reports Conflict

Yemen’s Houthis Claim Attacks on Ships: But Reports Conflict

Yemen’s Houthi rebels, a group aligned with Iran, said on Friday that they launched attacks on three ships in the Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea, and Arabian Sea. However, there are conflicting reports about the attacks, with some suggesting they may not have happened.

This reported attack is part of a months-long campaign by the Houthis targeting regional shipping. The Houthis claim these attacks are in solidarity with Palestinians fighting against Israel in the Gaza conflict.

Houthi spokesman Yahya Sarea announced the attacks in a televised speech. He said they targeted the following ships:

  • Yannis in the Red Sea
  • Essex in the Mediterranean Sea
  • MSC Alexandra in the Arabian Sea

Sarea specifically mentioned the Essex, stating the Houthis fired missiles at it for “violating the decision ban that prevents entry into occupied Palestinian ports.” He did not provide details on when the attacks occurred.

The United States Central Command acknowledged that the Houthis launched two anti-ship ballistic missiles into the Red Sea on May 23rd. However, they reported no injuries or damage.

Interestingly, reports contradict the Houthi claims regarding the attack on the Essex. The ship, a Liberian-flagged liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tanker, was anchored near Egypt’s Alexandria port in the Mediterranean on Friday, according to shipping data. This location is managed by Zodiac Maritime, a company controlled by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer.

A spokesperson for Zodiac Maritime denied the attack, stating, “The vessel is safely at anchor in Egyptian waters and there has been no sign of anything unusual.”

Further backing this denial, British maritime security firm Ambrey noted that the Essex had recently traded between Egyptian ports (Alexandria and Port Said) and hadn’t called on any Israeli port. They added, “The tanker was not further offshore Egypt than 15 nautical miles over the prior week. The Houthi language indicated they did not hit the vessel.”

Despite the Houthi claims, a broader security assessment seems to suggest that while the Houthis might have the capability to reach the eastern Mediterranean with missiles and drones launched from Yemen, they would likely face countermeasures from air defence systems operated by the regional coalition and local militaries.

This escalation in Houthi activity follows a statement by their leader, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, earlier in May. He declared that the Houthis would target any ship heading towards Israeli ports, expanding their attacks beyond the Red Sea region.

Further scrutiny from British maritime security firm Ambrey revealed that the Essex had been operating between Alexandria and Port Said and had not visited any Israeli ports recently. Their analysis suggested that the Houthis likely did not hit the vessel, a sentiment echoed by the top global ship registry, the Marshall Islands, which highlighted the robust air defence systems in place to counter such threats in the region.

Since November, the Houthis have been carrying out drone and missile strikes against ships in the Red Sea, the Bab al-Mandab Strait, and the Gulf of Aden. They claim these attacks are in support of Palestinians in the Gaza conflict. These actions have forced shipping companies to reroute cargo through longer and more expensive routes around southern Africa. This situation raises concerns about a potential widening of the Israel-Hamas conflict and further destabilization of the Middle East.

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