Yemen’s Houthi movement said on Tuesday they struck a Norwegian oil and chemical tanker with a rocket in its latest operation to protest against Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.
The Iran-aligned group targeted the ship after its crew “rejected all warning calls,” Houthi military spokesperson Yehia Sareea said in a televised statement.
He vowed that the Houthis would continue blocking ships heading to Israeli ports until Israel allows the entry of food and medical aid into the Gaza Strip – more than 1,000 miles from the Houthi seat of power in Sanaa.
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The ship, a Norwegian-owned-and-operated vessel called Strinda, was struck on Monday night as it traveled near the Bab al-Mandab strait, a sea lane through which much of the world’s oil is shipped.
The attack on the tanker Strinda took place about 60 nautical miles north of the Bab al-Mandab Strait, which separates East Africa from the Arabian Peninsula.
The U.S. military’s Central Command issued a statement Tuesday saying an anti-ship cruise missile “launched from a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen” hit the Strinda.
“There were no U.S. ships in the vicinity at the time of the attack, but the USS Mason responded … and is currently rendering assistance,” Central Command said. The Mason is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer that has been involved in several of the recent incidents off Yemen.
The attack caused a fire and damage but no casualties, the U.S. military said in a statement.
Geir Belsnes, the CEO of the Strinda’s operator, J. Ludwig Mowinckels Rederi, said the Strinda was coming from Malaysia and was bound for the Suez Canal and then on to Italy with a cargo of palm oil.
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Saree alleged the ship was bound for Israel.
The attack comes just days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu allegedly told President Biden that his country would act militarily against Yemen’s Houthi movement if the United States fails to do so, according to a report by Israeli publication N12News.
The Iran-aligned group has been harassing Israeli and U.S. forces in the Middle East since the start of Israel’s war with Hamas and on Saturday they said they would target all ships heading to Israel, regardless of their nationality and warned international shipping companies against dealing with Israeli ports.
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The group has attacked and seized several Israeli-linked ships in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab strait, and has also fired ballistic missiles and armed drones at Israel.
Three commercial vessels were attacked in the Red Sea on Dec. 3, prompting the U.S. warship USS Carney to shoot down multiple unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) headed toward them.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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