Yemen’s Houthi group has struck a Norwegian tanker with a naval missile, causing a fire but no casualties.
US Central Command reported the Strinda was attacked at 4 pm EST on December 11. It reported an anti-ship cruise missile struck the vessel while passing through Bab-el-Mandeb.
“There were no US ships in the vicinity at the time of the attack, but the USS Mason responded to the MT Strinda’s mayday call and is currently rendering assistance,” the US statement said.
The Iran-backed Houthi group said Strinda was “loaded with oil” and was on its way to the “Israeli entity”. Posting on social media, Houthi representative Yahya Sare’e said the group had prevented several ships from passing through the area in the last two days.
The Houthi armed forces “will not hesitate to target any ship that violates what was stated in the previous statements”, he said. The group intends to prevent all ships from transiting to Israeli ports “until they bring in the food and medicine that our steadfast brothers in the Gaza Strip need”.
According to Marine Traffic, the Strinda was heading from Malaysia to the Suez Canal, due to arrive on December 15. It is not clear that the vessel was actually heading to Israel. Kpler has reported the Strinda was on its way to Italy.
The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports 8.8 million barrels per day transited Bab-el-Mandeb in the first half of the year. In 2022, this was only 7.1mn bpd.
Attacks on the rise
The number of attacks from Houthi territory on shipping has been increasing in the last few weeks.
The USS Mason responded to an attack on the MV Central Park on November 26. A ballistic missile was fired towards the two ships, from Houthi-controlled areas, on November 27.
On November 29, Houthi forces launched an Iranian-made drone towards the USS Carney. The warship shot the drone down.
The US reported four attacks on three commercial vessels on December 3, in the southern Red Sea. Houthi forces fired two ballistic missiles at the MV Unity Explorer, one of which hit. They fired more missiles at the MV Number 9 and the MV Sophie II. The USS Carney shot down three drones.
The French armed forces reported the Languedoc frigate had shot down two drones on December 9, offshore Yemen. The drones were targeting the Languedoc, it reported.
The US said the attacks were a “direct threat to international commerce and maritime security”. It said the attacks were carried out by the Houthis in Yemen, but that Iran had “fully enabled” them. The United States will consider all appropriate responses in full coordination with its international allies and partners.”
The Houthis are fighting the Saudi Arabia-backed Yemeni government. The latter held talks yesterday with a military delegation from Saudi, on “discussing the readiness of Yemeni coast guard and its efforts to secure Yemen sea border from terrorist threats”.