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Houthis claim they hit British ship, downed US drone over Yemen

The latest ship struck by the Houthis has reportedly taken significant damage, with crew abandoning the cargo vessel.

Houthi supporters rally in Sanaa
An armed Houthi demonstrator lifts Palestinian and Yemeni flags during an anti-Israel and anti-US rally in the capital Sanaa on January 19, 2024 [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

The Houthi group says it hit a British cargo ship that is believed to be significantly damaged and shot down a US drone over its territory as the Yemeni group continued to target ships in the Red Sea demanding an end to Israel’s war on Gaza.

The Houthi claims of attacks come as the United States carried out five strikes in Yemen late on Saturday night as part of Washington’s military campaign after Houthi targeting of Israeli-linked vessels disrupted global trade passing through the Red Sea. Houthis have now expanded their attacks to include US and UK ships after the two countries launched strikes on the war-torn Arab nation.

The Rubymar cargo ship suffered “catastrophic damages and came to a complete halt” after being targeted in a military operation, said Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree in a televised address on Monday.

“As a result of the extensive damage the ship suffered, it is now at risk of potential sinking in the Gulf of Aden. During the operation, we made sure that the ship’s crew exited safely.”

The British maritime security firm Ambrey confirmed that the Rubymar is a UK-registered, Belize-flagged and Lebanese-operated cargo ship that came under attack late on Sunday.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) also confirmed the incident – without naming the ship – and said it took place some 35 nautical miles (65km) south of al-Makha (Mocha) in Yemen.

“Military authorities report crew have abandoned the vessel. Vessel at anchor and all crew are safe,” it said. “Military authorities remain on scene to provide assistance”.

On Monday, Ambrey said another vessel, a US-owned and Greek-flagged bulk carrier had called for military assistance citing a “missile attack”. The UKMTO also confirmed the incident 100 nautical miles (185km) off Yemen’s Aden, with both sources reporting the vessel’s crew are safe.

The Houthi military also claimed to have downed a US-made MQ-9 Reaper attack drone over Yemen, which it said “was carrying out hostile missions against our country on behalf of the Zionist entity”.

It did not provide any evidence, but it has downed the same drone – which is worth over $30m – several times before.

The Pentagon acknowledged in November that an MQ-9 was shot down over the Red Sea. The Houthis, who seized power in Yemen’s capital Sanaa and the country’s north in 2014, possess surface-to-air missile systems capable of shooting down the advanced drones.

The Houthis, also known as Ansar Allah, had claimed a confirmed missile attack on a British oil tanker that the US identified as a Panamanian-flagged vessel carrying crude bound for India.

The Iran-backed group has been disrupting trade through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden near its shores since October in a stated effort to support the Palestinian cause against Israel and its Western backers.

The Houthi military spokesman on Monday said the group remains undeterred and attacks will continue.

US Central Command (CENTCOM) said it launched successful strikes against three mobile antiship cruise missiles, one surface drone, and one underwater drone. This, it said, marked the first time since the start of the war that the Houthis tried to use an unmanned underwater vessel.

“These actions will protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure for US Navy and merchant vessels,” it said.

Israel’s war on Gaza, which has killed more than 29,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, is showing no signs of stopping as Israel vows to expand its ground assault into Rafah, the last large city in the enclave where 1.4 million Palestinians are taking shelter.

Source: Al Jazeera

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