Conflicts & War

US, Yemeni Houthis exchange fire in first deadly clash in Red Sea

Sana’a, Dec 31 (EFE).- The United States on Sunday sank three boats in the Red Sea carrying Shiite Houthi rebels from Yemen.

The US was responding to an attack by the Iranian-backed rebels on a container ship belonging to Danish shipping giant Maersk.

This is the first incident since the Houthis declared war on Israel on behalf of the people of Gaza more than two months ago in which the US has directly engaged the rebels, resulting in fatalities among their ranks.

So far, the Houthis have not claimed responsibility for the attack on the Singapore-flagged Maersk Hanzghou, which was hit near the rebel-held port of Al Hudeida, one of Yemen’s largest ports.

The Maersk Hanzghou alerted to two attacks in the Red Sea in less than 24 hours, which were attended by the US-led naval coalition to which the United Kingdom is also a party.

The first happened Saturday night when the US Central Naval Command (CENTCOM) reported that it had shot down two anti-ship missiles targeting the container ship that were launched from insurgent-held territory.

Then, in the early hours of Sunday morning, four small boats approached the merchant ship to board it.

In a statement on Sunday, CENTCOM explained that the Maersk Hangzhou had “issued a second distress call in less than 24 hours reporting being under attack by four Iranian-backed Houthi small boats.”

The rebels fired at the ship and tried to board the vessel, with a security team on board the Maersk returning fire, the statement said.

US helicopters responding to the ship’s distress call came under fire from the small boats, CENTCOM said, explaining that the “US Navy helicopters returned fire in self-defense, sinking three of the four small boats, and killing the crews.”

This is the most serious incident in the Red Sea that the recently-created, US-led naval coalition has faced.

The new British Foreign Secretary, David Cameron, noted on Sunday on his official X (formerly Twitter) account that he had spoken with his Iranian counterpart, Hosein Amir Abdolahian, about “the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, which threaten innocent lives and the global economy.”

“I made clear that Iran shares responsibility for preventing these attacks, given their long-standing support to the Houthis,” he said.

Iran has sought to disassociate itself from the Houthis’ actions on this strategic shipping lane.

The rebels began launching missile and drone barrages two months ago against southern Israel and against ships flying the flag of the Jewish state or owned by Israeli companies in the Red Sea and the Bab el Mandeb Strait.

After suspending transit through that area, the Danish shipping company Maersk decided a few days ago to resume transport through the Red Sea when the US announced the creation of the new naval coalition to defend international maritime security.EFE

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