Explosion reported near ship in Red Sea as Houthi attacks from Yemen continue

UK maritime security agency says vessel, crew unharmed; in separate strike, missile reportedly fired from Yemen hits US merchant ship, with Iran-backed rebels claiming 'direct hit'

Armed supporters of Yemen's Houthi rebels attend a rally in solidarity of Hamas, in Sanaa on February 1, 2024. (Photo by MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP)

An explosion was reported near a ship off the Red Sea coast of Yemen, British maritime security agency UKMTO said Thursday, adding that both the vessel and crew were safe.

“Master reports an explosion a distance off the vessel’s starboard side” west of the port city of Hodeida, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said, adding that “vessel and crew are safe and proceeding to the next port of call.”

There was no immediate claim for the blast, which followed a flurry of Red Sea missile strikes by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

The Houthis, part of the anti-Western, anti-Israel “axis of resistance” of Iranian-backed groups, have been harassing Red Sea shipping for months, triggering US and British reprisal attacks.

Earlier in January, the US designated the Houthis as a terror organization, partially restoring sanctions it lifted three years ago on the group whose repeated attacks in the Red Sea since Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught have significantly disrupted shipping in the key maritime corridor.

The Houthis have launched more than 30 attacks on commercial shipping and naval vessels since November 19, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

This photo released by the Houthi Media Center shows a Houthi forces helicopter approaching the cargo ship Galaxy Leader on November 19, 2023. (Houthi Media Center via AP)

In a separate attack, maritime security firm Ambrey said a missile fired from Yemen hit a merchant vessel early Thursday.

“A merchant vessel was reportedly targeted with a ‘missile’ while underway… southwest of Aden, Yemen,” Ambrey said, adding that “the vessel reported an explosion” on board.

“Ambrey was aware that a missile was fired from… Taez,” a Yemeni province that is partly in rebel hands, the firm said.

The statement, which did not identify the ship or the flag it was flying, came after the Houthi rebels said they fired missiles at a US ship in the Gulf of Aden, south of the Red Sea, heading to Israeli ports.

The missiles “directly hit the vessel,” which the rebels identified as “KOI,” Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree said in a statement on social media.

File – Houthi military spokesman, Brigadier Yahya Saree, delivering a statement in Sanaa, Yemen on December 15, 2023. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP)

The rebels say the attacks are in solidarity with the Palestinians and in protest at the war that has been raging in the Gaza Strip since October 7, when some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing over 240 hostages, mostly civilians.

Anger over Israel’s military campaign in Gaza — launched with the aim of destroying the terror group — has grown across the Middle East, stoking violence involving Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria, as well as Yemen.

The Houthi attacks have prompted some shipping companies to detour around southern Africa to avoid the Red Sea, a vital route that normally carries about 12 percent of global maritime trade.

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