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Vessel struck in Red Sea as Houthis promise attacks on more shipping lanes

Leader of Iran-aligned group says Houthis will prevent Israel-linked ships from passing through the Indian Ocean.

FILE - Houthi supporters attend a rally in the Gaza Strip, in Sanaa, Yemen, March 8, 2024. A major deadline under the half-century-old War Powers Resolution came this week for President Joe Biden to obtain Congress' approval to keep waging his military campaign against Yemen's Houthis. But it was met with public silence, even from Senate Democrats frustrated by the Biden administration's blowing past some of the checkpoints that would give Congress more of a say in the United States' deepening military engagement in the Middle East conflicts. (AP Photo/Osamah Abdulrahman, File)
Houthi supporters attend a rally in Sanaa, Yemen [File: Osamah Abdulrahman/AP Photo]

A merchant vessel has been damaged in a missile strike in the Red Sea off Yemen, marine security monitors said, as the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels threatened to expand their attacks on shipping which have disrupted global trade.

The crew was not injured and the vessel continued its journey, said the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) and security firm Ambrey, after the incident west of the rebel-held port of Hodeidah on Friday.

The British Navy’s UKMTO said the ship reported being “struck by a missile”.

“The vessel has sustained some damage,” the UKMTO said, and described the crew as being “safe”.

The Houthis did not immediately claim responsibility for the attack, which comes as its leader, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, said the group’s operations targeting vessels will escalate to prevent Israel-linked ships from passing through the Indian Ocean towards the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

“Our main battle is to prevent ships linked to the Israeli enemy from passing through not only the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, but also the Indian Ocean towards the Cape of Good Hope. This is a major step and we have begun to implement our operations related to it,” al-Houthi said in a televised speech on Thursday.

The Houthis have been attacking ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November in what they say is a campaign of solidarity with Palestinians and against Israel’s continuing war on Gaza.

About 34 Houthi members have been killed since the group began the attacks, al-Houthi said.

Months of Houthi attacks in the Red Sea have disrupted global shipping, forcing firms to re-route to longer and more expensive journeys around Southern Africa, and stoked fears that the Israel-Hamas war could spread to destabilise the wider Middle East.

The assaults on shipping have raised the profile of the Houthis, who are members of Islam’s minority Shia Zaidi sect, which ruled Yemen for 1,000 years until 1962.

Earlier in March, a Houthi missile struck a commercial ship in the Gulf of Aden, killing three of its crew members and forcing survivors to abandon the vessel. It marked the first fatal attack by the Houthis on shipping.

Other recent Houthi actions include an attack last month on a cargo ship carrying fertiliser, the Rubymar, which later sank after drifting for several days.

Source: News Agencies

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