Suspected attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels targets ship in Gulf of Aden

Crew members are safe after explosion close to vessel off the coast of Yemen, near border with Oman; ship’s name and flag not immediately released

Yemenis brandish their rifles as they march in the Houthi-run capital Sanaa in solidarity with the people of Gaza on May 17, 2024 (Photo by MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP)
Yemenis brandish their rifles as they march in the Houthi-run capital Sanaa in solidarity with the people of Gaza on May 17, 2024 (Photo by MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP)

A suspected attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels targeted a ship in the Gulf of Aden on Tuesday, the latest assault blamed on the group on the crucial maritime trade route.

The captain of the ship reported an explosion in close proximity to the vessel off the coast of Nishtun, Yemen, close to the country’s border with Oman, the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center said.

The ship, whose name and flag were not released, and all crew are safe, the UKMTO said in a warning to mariners.

The explosion took place in the farthest reaches of the waterway earlier targeted by the rebels, the center said.

It did not elaborate on what caused the explosion, though the Houthis have been known to use drones and missiles as well as bomb-carrying drone boats.

The Houthis did not immediately comment. It can take hours or even days before they acknowledge carrying out an attack. The last reported Houthi attack in the region took place June 28.

Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels have been launching drone and missile strikes in shipping lanes since November, saying they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

The rebels have targeted more than 60 vessels by firing missiles and drones in their campaign, which has killed a total of four sailors. They seized one vessel and sank two since November.

Houthi supporters attend a rally against the Israel war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the US-led bombing in Yemen in Sanaa on June 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Osamah Abdulrahman)

US-led airstrikes have 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.

The Houthis have maintained that their attacks target ships linked to Israel, the United States, or Britain.

However, many of the ships attacked have little or no connection to the Israel-Hamas war, which erupted on October 7, when Hamas-led terrorists rampaged through southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking 251 hostages to Gaza.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern over 13 UN staffers and other aid workers who remain detained by the Houthi rebels and called for their immediate release.

“We remain extremely worried about the well-being of 13 UN staff and a number of NGO employees who have been detained for over a month now by the ‘Ansar Allah’ de facto authorities in Yemen,” the office said in a statement, using the rebel group’s official name.

“We continue to be refused access to them,” the office said.

Of the 13 employees, the UN has said six work for the UN’s human rights agency.

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