Suspected Drones Attack 2 More Ships In Mideast Waters

 February 7, 2024

TEL AVIV, Israel — In a tense escalation amidst ongoing regional conflicts, two ships navigating through Middle East waters fell victim to suspected drone attacks by Yemen Houthi rebels early on Tuesday.

These assaults, part of a worrying trend linked to the prolonged hostilities between Iran-backed Houthis and Israel, have raised alarm over maritime security in the region.

The first incident, reported in the southern Red Sea near Hodeida, involved a Barbados-flagged, United Kingdom-owned cargo ship. According to the British military's United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), the vessel sustained slight damage to its bridge windows after being struck by a projectile suspected to be from a drone. Notably, a small vessel was spotted near the ship shortly before the attack, raising concerns about the methods employed by these rebels.

Two Ships, Two Different Locations, Same Day of Attack

Private security firm Ambrey indicated that the ship suffered only minor damage, and no crew members were injured in this unnerving incident. The attacks did not stop there, as a second ship faced a similar threat later that day off Aden's port city in Yemen.

This vessel, identified as a Marshall Islands-flagged, Greek-owned cargo ship, reported an explosion a perilous 50 meters from its starboard side. Fortunately, like the first, this incident resulted in no injuries or damage.

These incidents underscore a precarious escalation in a conflict that now extends beyond land, endangering vital global shipping routes. A statement from Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree of the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels later claimed the attacks on what they described as one American and one British vessel in the Red Sea, offering no evidence to back the assertion.

Military Responses and Security Concerns Heighten

The claim on these attacks, specifically regarding the Morning Tide, coincides with details provided by Ambrey, pointing to a deliberate pattern in targeting. The Morning Tide's owner, Furadino Shipping, confirmed to The Associated Press that the attack led to no casualties and that the vessel is proceeding to Singapore.

This recent string of attacks adds to a growing list of incidents that have occurred since November. They highlight a strategic shift by the Houthis, who have increasingly targeted vessels with little to no direct links to Israel amid the latter's conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. This tactic challenges regional security and presents a significant risk to international trade routes connecting Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.

In response to the rising threat from Houthi rebels, the United States and the United Kingdom, with support from allies, have initiated airstrikes against Houthi missile arsenals and drone launch sites. This military action seeks to neutralize the threat posed to maritime navigation and to safeguard international waters for both military and commercial vessels.

U.S. Navy Takes Decisive Action to Neutralize Threats

Recent airstrikes targeted 36 Houthi positions in Yemen, alongside a coordinated assault on Iranian-backed militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in Iraq and Syria. This action was in retaliation for a drone strike that claimed the lives of three U.S. troops in Jordan, underscoring the broad and complex nature of regional hostilities.

The U.S. military's Central Command, in a bid to ensure the safety of these waters, acknowledged an operation against two Houthi "drone boats" laden with explosives. The assertive measure taken by American forces, deemed necessary to counteract an imminent threat, underscores the commitment to maintaining freedom of navigation in a region fraught with tension.

These calculated responses by the U.S. and its allies reflect a determination to protect maritime routes and ensure the safety of naval and merchant vessels against increasingly bold and sophisticated threats.

Conclusion

The recent drone attacks on two commercial vessels in the Middle East waters underline the escalating maritime threats tied to the ongoing conflict between Yemen's Houthi rebels and Israel. Despite no casualties being reported, the incidents showcase the expanding scope of the conflict and the risk it poses to international shipping lanes. In reaction, both the United States and the United Kingdom have stepped up their military actions against Houthi forces, aiming to secure the region and defend global maritime trade from such unprecedented threats.

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