Merchant ship damaged by drone attack in Red Sea, no injuries

UK navy monitor says vessel continuing on its way; private security firm identifies it as Liberia-flagged container ship bound for Qingdao, China

Illustrative: Yemeni youths march during a ceremony in the capital Sanaa marking the end of summer camps organized by the country's Houthi rebels, June 9, 2024. (Mohammed Huwais / AFP)
Illustrative: Yemeni youths march during a ceremony in the capital Sanaa marking the end of summer camps organized by the country's Houthi rebels, June 9, 2024. (Mohammed Huwais / AFP)

A merchant ship was damaged by a drone attack in the Red Sea near Yemen early Sunday morning, though no injuries were reported, according to a British maritime security agency.

Vessels in and around the Red Sea have come under repeated attack for months by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen who say they are acting in support of Palestinians during the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

The attack occurred about 65 nautical miles (120 kilometers) west of the Yemeni port city of Hodeida, said the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which is run by the British navy.

“The Master of a merchant vessel reports being hit by an uncrewed aerial system (UAS), resulting in damage to the vessel. All crew members are reported safe, and the vessel is proceeding to its next port of call,” said a bulletin from the agency.

“Authorities are investigating,” it added, offering no attribution for the attack.

The private security firm Ambrey identified the ship involved as a Liberia-flagged container ship bound for Qingdao, China.

The Houthis did not immediately claim the attack. However, it can take the rebels hours or even days to acknowledge their assaults.

The attack comes as the US has sent the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower back home after an eight-month deployment that saw it lead the American response to the Houthi assaults. Those attacks have seen shipping drastically drop through a route crucial to Asian, Middle East, and European markets in a campaign the Houthis say will continue as long as the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip rages on.

On Saturday, the US Central Command, which has carried out retaliatory strikes against the Houthis over their attacks on shipping, said it had destroyed three nautical drones belonging to the group over the past 24 hours.

It also said the group had launched three anti-ship missiles into the Gulf of Aden, but no injuries or significant damage were reported.

The Houthis have launched more than 60 attacks targeting specific vessels and fired off other missiles and drones in their campaign, killing a total of four sailors. They have seized one vessel and sunk two since November. A US-led airstrike campaign has targeted the Houthis since January, with a series of strikes on May 30 killing at least 16 people and wounding 42 others, the rebels say. They have also apparently fired missiles and drones directly at Israel.

The Houthis have maintained that their attacks target ships linked to Israel or its allies the United States and Britain. However, many of the ships attacked have little or no connection to the Israel-Hamas war — and some have been  bound for the Houthis’ main benefactor, Iran.

War erupted on October 7 when the Palestinian terror group Hamas led a devastating attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people. Terrorists also abducted 251 people who were taken as hostages to the Gaza Strip.

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