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Cargo Ships Attacked in Red Sea: US Blames Houthis From Yemen

The attacks come amid escalating tensions in the region and pose a significant threat to maritime security.

Two cargo ships in the Red Sea fell victim to missile attacks launched from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen, according to the United States. The vessels, crucial for global trade, were attacked in the Bab El Mandab, a narrow strait of water. The Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, have claimed responsibility, asserting their support for Hamas and targeting ships bound for Israel.

The first ship, a container vessel named Al Jasrah owned by German transport company Hapag-Lloyd and flagged to Liberia, was hit by a drone. The ship, en route from the Greek port of Piraeus to Singapore, sustained damage, but there were no casualties, and it is continuing its journey.

A second Liberian-flagged vessel in the Bab El Mandab was struck by a ballistic missile later on Friday. A fire ensued, and a US Navy destroyer was dispatched to extinguish it. The attacks come amid escalating tensions in the region and pose a significant threat to maritime security.

The United States, facing pressure from Israel, is cautious about directly targeting Houthi missile sites to avoid further complications in the Israel-Hamas conflict and potential retaliation from Iran. Instead, discussions are underway for the formation of a multinational naval coalition to safeguard shipping and intercept incoming missiles and drones.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, currently on a Middle East trip, labelled the Houthis as a “material threat” to shipping and commerce in the region. He attributed ultimate responsibility for the attacks to Iran, stating, “While the Houthis are pulling the trigger, so to speak, they’re being handed the gun by Iran.”

The incidents have raised concerns, leading to a spike in insurance premiums for ships in the southern Red Sea. Some vessels may consider alternative routes, such as circumventing the Red Sea through the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

The Houthis, engaged in conflict with Yemen’s Saudi-backed government, have positioned themselves as part of an “axis of resistance” aligned with Iran against Israel, the US, and the broader West. This recent surge in attacks adds to their previous actions against commercial ships, including the successful hijacking of a cargo vessel in November.

The Bab El Mandeb Strait, a critical channel for global trade, witnesses approximately 17,000 ships and 10% of global trade passing through annually. The attacks underscore the importance of ensuring the security of this strategic waterway.

Kiki Garba

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