Norwegian-owned vessel hit with missile off Yemen coast as threats from Houthis grow

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A ship was attacked off the coast of Yemen in the Red Sea, two private intelligence firms said Tuesday.

The attack on the vessel came as threats have increased from Yemen’s Houthi rebels on commercial shipping in the area over the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. 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 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.

The United States Central Command (CENTCOM) later said the ship, a Norwegian commercial tanker vessel called STRINDA, was attacked “by what is assessed to have been an Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM) launched from a Houthi controlled area of Yemen” as it passed through Bab el-Mandeb.

The attack caused a fire and damage but no casualties.

CENTCOM said there were “no US ships in the vicinity at the time of the attack” but that the US Navy destroyer USS Mason in the Red Sea responded to the tanker mayday call and provided assistance.

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 Norwegian-owned and -operated ship and Israel.

In mid-November, Houthi rebels said they hijacked an Israeli cargo ship traveling through the Red Sea. Israel blamed Iran for the incident and denied that the vessel was Israeli.

US defense officials confirmed that Houthi rebels seized the ship, a vehicle carrier named the Galaxy Leader, in the Red Sea. The rebels descended on the cargo ship by rappelling down from a helicopter, the officials said.

The Bahaman-flagged vessel is registered under a British company, which is partially owned by Israeli tycoon Abraham Ungar, who goes by Rami. The vessel was leased out to a Japanese company at the time of the hijacking.

According to the Israeli military, the ship was sailing from Turkey to India with an international civilian crew, without any Israelis aboard.

This handout satellite picture released by Maxar Technologies on November 28, 2023, shows the recently seized Israeli-linked Galaxy Leader ship, that was captured by Houthi rebels on November 19, next to a support vessel in the southern Red Sea near Hodeida, Yemen. (Maxar Technologies / AFP)

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