A shipment the US military said is of Iranian weapons destined for Yemen's Houthis which its navy seized from a vessel in the Arabian Sea. Image Credit: AFP

WASHINGTON: Operatives from Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah are working inside Yemen to support Houthi insurgents’ attacks on international shipping, a US official said on Tuesday.

Tim Lenderking, the US special envoy for Yemen, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Iran’s clerical state was “equipping and facilitating” the Houthi attacks, which have triggered retaliatory US and British strikes on Yemen.

Click here to get exclusive content with Gulf News WhatsApp channel

“Credible public reports suggest a significant number of Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah operatives are supporting Houthi attacks from inside Yemen,” Lenderking said.

“I can’t imagine the Yemeni people want these Iranians in their country. This must stop,” he said.

The White House said in December that Iran was “deeply involved” in planning the attacks, which the Houthis say are acts of solidarity with the Palestinians in the Israel-Hamas war.

The Houthis, who control war-torn Yemen’s most populated areas, have previously reported the death of 17 fighters in Western strikes targeting their military facilities.

Also read

The Houthi attacks have had a significant effect on traffic through the busy Red Sea shipping route, forcing some companies into a two-week detour around southern Africa.

Last week, Egypt said Suez Canal revenues were down by up to 50 percent this year.

Ship targeted

A rocket exploded late Tuesday night off the side of a ship travelling through the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, authorities said, the latest suspected attack to be carried out by Houthi militants.

The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center, which oversees shipping in the Mideast, reported the attack happened about 110 kilometers (70 miles) off the coast of the Houthi-held port city of Hodeida. The rocket exploded several miles off the bow of the vessel, it said.

“The crew and vessel are reported to be safe and are proceeding to next port of call,” the UKMTO said.

Image Credit: AP

The private security firm Ambrey reported that the vessel targeted appeared to be a Marshall Islands-flagged, Greek-owned bulk carrier in the area at the time. Another ship, a Panama-flagged, Emirati-owned chemical tanker was nearby as well, Ambrey said.

The Associated Press could not immediately identify the vessels involved.

The Houthis typically take several hours to claim their assaults and have not yet done so for the assault late Tuesday.

Bomb-carrying drones shot down

Meanwhile, the US military’s Central Command said an American and an allied warship shot down five Houthi bomb-carrying drones in the Red Sea on Tuesday night.

The drones originated “from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and (it was) determined they presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and to the US Navy and coalition ships in the region,” Central Command said in a statement.

Since November, the rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea and surrounding waters over the Israel-Hamas war. Those vessels have included at least one with cargo for Iran, the Houthis’ main benefactor, and an aid ship later bound for Houthi-controlled territory.