An Iranian missile being fired during drills in the Persian Gulf in December 2021

Iran-Backed Houthis Attack Tanker In Red Sea

Tuesday, 12/12/2023

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis said on Tuesday they attacked the Norwegian commercial tanker STRINDA in their latest operation against commercial shipping in the Red Sea.

The group targeted the tanker with a rocket after the crew refused to respond to all warnings, 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.

On Saturday, Sareea had threatened that Houthis would target all ships heading to Israel, regardless of their nationality. He also warned all international shipping companies against dealing with Israeli ports. "If Gaza does not receive the food and medicine it needs, all ships in the Red Sea bound for Israeli ports, regardless of their nationality, will become a target for our armed forces."

The attack on the tanker STRINDA took place about 60 nautical miles (111km) north of the Bab al-Mandab Strait connecting the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden at about 2100 GMT, a US official told Reuters. A second US official said the STRINDA was able to move under its own power in the hours after the attack.

"There were no US ships in the vicinity at the time of the attack, but the (US Navy destroyer) USS MASON responded to the M/T STRINDA's mayday call and is currently rendering assistance," the US military's Central Command, which oversees American forces in the Middle East, said in a statement posted on social media platform X.

The attack caused a fire and damage but no casualties, the US military said in a statement.

The Houthi spokesman said that the group had managed to obstruct the passage of several ships in recent days, acting in support of the Palestinians.

The Iran-backed group controlling large parts of Yemen, began attacking Israel and international shipping in November, after other Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria began targeting US bases in the two countries. Iran has clearly decided not to directly get involved in the Gaza war, but its proxies have been trying to exert military pressure on Israel and the United States. IRGC-affiliated media in Tehran reported the Houthi statement about targeting the tanker on Tuesday, without further comment.

The chemical tanker is now headed for a safe port, the ship's Norwegian owner, Mowinckel Chemical Tankers, told Reuters. The STRINDA tanker's crew of 22 from India are all unhurt, Mowinckel Chair Geir Belsnes said.

The chemical tanker is Norway flagged, and its Norwegian owner, Mowinckel Chemical Tankers, and manager Hansa Tankers could not be immediately reached for comment outside office hours.

The STRINDA had loaded vegetable oil and biofuels in Malaysia and was headed for Venice, Italy, data from ship tracking firm Kpler showed.

It was not immediately clear whether the STRINDA had any ties to Israel.

During the first week of December, three commercial vessels came under attack in international waters, prompting a US Navy destroyer to intervene.

The Houthis also seized last month a British-owned cargo ship that had links with an Israeli company.

The United States and Britain have condemned the attacks on shipping, blaming Iran for its role in supporting the Houthis. Tehran says its allies make their decisions independently.

Saudi Arabia has asked the United States to show restraint in responding to the attacks.

With reporting by Reuters

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