In a significant development affecting maritime security, the Houthis fired a missile at a British Bahamas-flagged bulk carrier “Unity Explorer” and used a drone to target a Panamanian flagged container ship “Number Nine” have been reported in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a vital shipping lane off the coast of Yemen.
Details of the Attack: According to a statement released by the Houthi forces, the “Unity Explorer” and the “Number Nine” ships were targeted in a coordinated operation involving a naval missile and a naval drone, respectively. The Houthis claim that the attack was prompted by the ships’ disregard for warning messages issued by the Yemeni naval forces.
The Incident: The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), a wing of the British military, issued a warning about the incident occurring in the strait that serves as a critical link between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. This area has been a hotspot for recent attacks, many of which have been attributed to the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Attack on British Vessel: A British Bahamas-flagged bulk carrier, approximately 34.5 km west-northwest of Mocha, Yemen, reportedly came under rocket attack while crossing the Red Sea. The crew was forced to retreat to the ship’s citadel for safety. The UKMTO had earlier indicated drone activity, including a potential explosion, emanating from the direction of Yemen.
Regional Implications: The Bab el-Mandeb Strait’s strategic importance has been underscored by these incidents, especially considering the ongoing conflict between the Houthi rebels and various international forces. The Houthis, who have launched missiles and drones toward Israel in response to its actions against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, are part of a self-described “axis of resistance” against Israel, alongside other Iran-supported groups like Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah.
Capture of the Galaxy Leader: Adding to the tensions, the Houthis captured the merchant ship Galaxy Leader, along with its 25 crew members, on November 19. The ship, operated by a Japanese company but owned by a British firm linked to an Israeli businessman, has become a focal point in the ongoing conflict.
Awaiting Acknowledgment: As of now, the Houthis have not acknowledged the incident involving the British vessel and drone activity in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.
Concerns for Maritime Security: These developments have raised significant concerns for maritime security in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. The international community is closely monitoring the situation, given the potential implications for global trade and regional stability.