Yemen’s Houthi Rebels Target Liberian-Flagged Ship in Red Sea with Missiles, Causing Explosion but No Damage Reported

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched missiles at a Liberian-flagged container ship in the Red Sea, leading to an explosion near the vessel without causing any damage, authorities confirmed. The master of the vessel reported the incident, assuring that no injuries were sustained. The UK Maritime Trade Operations center later identified the ship as the Pinocchio, managed by a Singaporean firm.

The U.S. military’s Central Command disclosed that the Houthis utilized two anti-ship ballistic missiles in the attack, with Houthi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree claiming responsibility in a prerecorded statement. Saree alleged that the Pinocchio was an American ship, though no evidence was provided to substantiate the claim. The Houthis aim to pressure an end to the Israel-Hamas conflict in the Gaza Strip through their attacks, although recent targeting of vessels appears unrelated to the conflict.

Following last week’s fatal strike by a Houthi missile on a commercial ship in the Gulf of Aden, resulting in the deaths of three crew members and the abandonment of the vessel by survivors, concerns regarding the group’s escalating assaults on maritime vessels have been raised. These attacks, ostensibly in response to Israel’s actions in Gaza, have disrupted shipping through the Red Sea, a vital route for energy and cargo transportation between Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.

In January, the U.S. initiated airstrikes against the Houthis in an attempt to deter their attacks on shipping, yet these efforts have not curbed the rebel group’s actions. Monday saw U.S. forces conducting six strikes to destroy an underwater Houthi drone and 18 anti-ship missiles, according to Central Command. Meanwhile, the Houthi’s Al-Masirah satellite news channel reported U.S. strikes in Yemen’s Houthi-held Hodeidah and Saada provinces. The overall impact of these strikes on the Houthis’ capabilities and intentions remains to be seen.