US owned cargo ship near Yemen hit by missile as fears grow conflict could spread

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  • The report only said the ship’s captain reported that the ‘port side of vessel hit from above by a missile,’ but did not identify the ship or elaborate 
  • It comes less than a day after Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched an attack against an American destroyer in the Red Sea
US military says ballistic missile fired from Houthi-controlled territory hit M/V Gibraltar Eagle

A US commercial ship was hit by a missile off the coast of Yemen on Monday, according to US and UK officials.

US Central command said Iranian-backed Houthi militants fired an anti-ship ballistic missile from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and struck the M/V Gibraltar Eagle, a Marshall Islands-flagged, U.S.-owned and operated container ship.

The UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) first reported there had been an ‘incident’ 95 nautical miles south east of Aden, though details of the incident remain scarce.

That report only said the ship’s captain reported that the ‘port side of vessel hit from above by a missile,’ but did not identify the ship or elaborate.  It is currently not known who was behind the attack and an investigation has been launched. 

Private intelligence firm Ambrey said a US-owned bulk carrier carrying a Marshall Islands flag had been hit by the missile. The firm claimed the vessel remained seaworthy and there were no injuries.

A US commercial ship was hit by a missile off the coast of Yemen on Monday
A US commercial ship was hit by a missile off the coast of Yemen on Monday

Sunday’s attack toward the American warship marked the first U.S.-acknowledged fire by the Houthis since America and allied nations began strikes Friday on the rebels following weeks of assaults on shipping in the Red Sea.

The Houthis — a Shiite rebel group allied with Iran that seized Yemen’s capital in 2014 — have targeted that crucial corridor linking Asian and Mideast energy and cargo shipments to the Suez Canal onward to Europe over the Israel-Hamas war, attacks that threaten to widen that conflict into a regional conflagration.

They did not immediately acknowledge the attack.

It wasn’t presently clear whether the U.S. would retaliate for the latest attacks, though President Joe Biden has said he ‘will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary.’

The UKMTO warned ships to ‘transit with caution and report and suspicious activity’. 

The U.S. Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Yemen’s Houthi rebels did not acknowledge any attack, though they have fired missiles previously in that area.

The Houthi fire on Sunday went in the direction of the USS Laboon, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer operating in the southern reaches of the Red Sea, the U.S. military’s Central Command said in a statement.

The missile came from near Hodeida, a Red Sea port city long held by the Houthis, the U.S. said.

The missile came from near Hodeida, a Red Sea port city long held by the Houthis, the U.S. said.

The Houthis have been attacking commercial ship sin the Red Sea which they claim are headed to Israel as they aim to support Palestinians in the war between Israel and Hamas. 

A US fighter jet blasted the Houthi cruise missile out of the sky over the Red Sea on Sunday before it was able to hit its target, the USS Laboon.

Rebels were seen posing with machine guns and rocket launchers in photos released Sunday. Fighters were also photographed earlier in the weekend conducting drills and recording themselves in terrain made to resemble Jewish settlements.

The United States military and its allies began airstrikes on Friday on the rebels following weeks of assaults on shipping in the Red Sea. 

The Houthi fire on Sunday went in the direction of the USS Laboon, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in the southern reaches of the Red Sea, Central Command said.

The missile came from near Hodeida, a Red Sea port city long held by the Houthis. ‘An anti-ship cruise missile was fired from Iranian-backed Houthi militant areas of Yemen toward USS Laboon,’ Central Command said.

‘There were no injuries or damage reported.’ The first day of US-led strikes on Friday hit 28 locations and struck more than 60 targets with cruise missiles and bombs.

Sites hit included weapon depots, radars and command centers, including in remote mountain areas.

The Houthis have yet to acknowledge how severe the infrastructure damage was from the strikes, which they said killed five of their troops and wounded six others.

But two officials told the New York Times on Sunday they still have about 75 percent of their ability to fire missiles and drones at ships transiting the Red Sea.

This is despite the US and its allies claiming to have damaged or destroyed about 90 percent of the targets struck.