Yemen Houthi rebels target a Liberian-flagged ship in Red Sea with missiles; no damage reported

This is a locator map for Yemen with its capital, Sanaa. (AP Photo)

This is a locator map for Yemen with its capital, Sanaa. (AP Photo)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Yemen’s Houthi rebels have targeted a Liberian-flagged container ship in the Red Sea with missiles, producing an explosion near the vessel but causing no damage, authorities said.

The master of the vessel reported the explosion Monday and said no one was hurt, the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center said. The UKMTO later identified the vessel as the Pinocchio, managed by a Singaporean firm.

The Houthis used two anti-ship ballistic missiles in the attack, the U.S. military’s Central Command said.

Houthi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree claimed the attack early Tuesday in a prerecorded statement, claiming the Pinocchio was an American ship without offering evidence to support the assertion.

He said the Houthis would continue their attacks, aimed at pressuring an end to the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip. However, the Houthi attacks targeting vessel since November have increasingly had little or no connection to Israel, the United States or other nations involved in the war.

Monday’s attack comes after a Houthi missile struck a commercial ship in the Gulf of Aden last week, killing three of its crew members and forcing survivors to abandon the vessel.

It was the first fatal strike in a campaign of assaults by the Iranian-backed group over Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The Houthis say the attacks are intended to pressure Israel into stopping the war, but their targets increasingly have little or nothing to do with the conflict.

Other recent Houthi actions include an attack last month on a cargo ship carrying fertilizer, the Rubymar, which later sank after drifting for several days, and the downing of an American drone worth tens of millions of dollars.

The U.S. has lead a series of airstrikes targeting the Houthis since January, but they have yet to stop the rebels’ attacks on shipping, which have disrupted trade through the Red Sea, a crucial waterway for energy and cargo shipments between Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

On Monday, U.S. forces carried out six strikes destroying an underwater Houthi drone and 18 anti-ship missiles, Central Command said. The Houthi’s Al-Masirah satellite news channel reported U.S. strikes in Yemen’s Houthi-held Hodeidah and Saada provinces.

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