Yemen’s Houthi rebels say they have lost 10 fighters after three of their ships were attacked by U.S. forces in the Red Sea.
In a statement issued on Sunday, the Houthis said the boats were carrying out a mission aimed at “establishing security and stability and protecting maritime navigation.”
It also said the ship was “fulfilling its humanitarian and moral obligation to prevent Israeli ships and ships bound for occupied Palestinian ports from transiting the Red Sea.”
The US military earlier announced that it had sunk three vessels that were attacking container ships in the Red Sea while on patrol to counter the threat posed by the Houthi rebels.
Helicopters from two U.S. Central Command warships, the Eisenhower and Gravely, responded to an SOS call from the Singapore-flagged Maersk Hangzhou on Sunday morning, firing at “Iran-backed Houthi boats” in self-defense. (Centcom) said. A U.S. military helicopter sank three boats, killing several crew members. A fourth boat escaped.
The Maersk Hangzhou issued a distress call after coming within 20 meters (65 feet) of fire from a Houthi boat that tried to board the ship, CENTCOM said in a statement on X (formerly known as Twitter). .
The CENTCOM statement added that when US military helicopters returned fire, they also came under fire from Houthi boats, prompting a counterattack.
Iranian-backed Houthi boats attack merchant ship and US Navy helicopter in southern Red Sea
At 6:30 a.m. (Sanaa time) on December 31, the container ship MAERSK HANGZHOU issued its second distress call within 24 hours, reporting that it was under attack by four Iranian-backed vessels. pic.twitter.com/pj8NAzjbVF
— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) December 31, 2023
This was the second alleged attack by the Houthis on Maersk Hangzhou within 24 hours. Late Saturday night, Centcom announced it had shot down two ballistic missiles fired by the Houthis in response to a separate missile attack on Maersk Hangzhou.
Following the attack, the ship’s owner, global shipping giant Maersk, announced it would suspend operations in the Red Sea for 48 hours, underscoring the continuing threat to commercial shipping in the region.
attack on the red sea
Amid Israel’s war on Gaza, Yemen’s Iran-allied Houthis have repeatedly targeted ships believed to be linked to Israel in the Red Sea, forcing major global shipping companies such as Maersk to navigate the waterway. I’m pressing for abandonment. The Houthis have vowed to continue their attacks until Israel’s assault on Gaza stops.
The United States on Dec. 19 announced a global naval task force to protect ships in disputed waters, through which about 12% of global trade passes.
However, of the 20 countries that the US says have agreed to support the coalition, only the UK is directly providing warships, meaning the US government is effectively “acting alone” against the Houthis. Al Jazeera’s Resul Serdar reports from Djibouti, near the border. Red Sea.
“There is very little naval presence here,” Serdar said.
And while the presence of the U.S.-led coalition initially seemed to restore some confidence in the route, Houthi attacks on ships passing through have not stopped.
U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Brad Cooper told The Associated Press that the group is increasing its use of anti-ship ballistic missiles to target ships, adding that the U.S. is concerned that “the Houthis’ reckless attacks may continue.” “We clearly recognize that this is high,” he added.
Al Jazeera’s Serdar said it was clear that the U.S. Navy had so far “not been able to deter the Houthis” and that they were carrying out more frequent attacks.
He said the conflict marked a serious escalation as the US not only sank a Houthi boat but also killed a Houthi fighter. He said such clashes have caused “massive panic” among Yemenis who fear the conflict could spill over into their territory.
“It could spark a new war that would damage the region,” Serdar said.
The Red Sea unrest follows growing anger across the Middle East over the devastation in the Gaza Strip. At least 21,822 Palestinians, including 8,800 children, have been killed in Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip within three months.
According to Israel, the war began on October 7 when Hamas carried out cross-border blitzkrieg attacks on Israeli territory, killing about 1,140 people, mostly civilians.
The United States, which has steadfastly provided military and diplomatic support to Israel throughout the conflict, has faced more than 100 attacks by Iranian-backed groups in Syria and Iraq since the war began, and believes its assets are also being targeted. ing.
Are communication cables safe?
Yemen’s Foreign Ministry amid concerns that Yemen’s Houthis could next target critical undersea communications cables that pass under the Bab al-Mandeb Strait and power internet networks. The ministry said it is fully committed to protecting these networks.
“Yemen’s decision to block the passage of enemy ships of Israel does not concern the vessels of international companies licensed by the Maritime Authority Sanaa to carry out maritime cable works,” the ministry said.
However, it added that ships “carrying out submarine cable work” must “obtain the necessary permits and approvals”.