Houthi missiles strike more merchant vessels in the Red Sea

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Three ships have become the latest targets for Houthi missiles in the Red Sea, with one vessel sustaining severe enough damage to warrant it being abandoned by its crew.

The British-owned, Lebanese-operated bulk carrier MV Rubymar was on 18 February hit by the Houthis while transiting the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb. The UK Maritime Trade Organization (UKMTO) reported the incident, and a spokesman for the Houthi group claimed responsibility for the attack later on Monday.

The UKMTO subsequently said that the crew had abandoned ship, and that military responders were on scene assisting.

“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,” said Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree in a statement.

Private security firm Ambrey reported the Rubymar had been on its way to Bulgaria after leaving Khorfakkan in the United Arab Emirates.

Meanwhile, on the night of 16-17 February, four anti-ship ballistic missiles launched were launched by the Houthis, with at least three targeting the tanker MT Pollux. The US military’s Central Command said there were no reported injuries or damage from MT Pollux or any other ship in the area, but the US State Department said it was struck by a single missile in the Red Sea.

The UKTMO reported the oil tanker was hit approximately 72 nautical miles northwest of Mokha, Yemen. The security agency confirmed that the crew onboard was safe and that the MT Pollux suffered only minor damage.

“The naval forces of the Yemeni Armed Forces carried out a targeting operation against a British oil ship (Pollux) in the Red Sea with a large number of appropriate naval missiles, and the strikes were accurate and direct,” said Saree.

On 15 February, Central Command reported an anti-ship ballistic missile launched from Houthi controlled areas of Yemen into the Gulf of Aden. The missile was headed toward MV Lycavitos, a Barbados-flagged, UK-owned and operated bulk carrier. The ship reported no injuries but very minor damage in the attack and continued its voyage.

The Iran-backed Houthis, who hold a considerable part of Northwest Yemen under their control, say they are targeting ships linked to Israel and this is in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.