A handout picture released by the US Central Command (CENTCOM) on February 15, 2024, shows a shipment the US military said is of Iranian weapons destined for Houthis which its navy seized from a vessel in the Arabian Sea on January 28. Image Credit: AP

DUBAI: Yemen’s Al Houthi militants targeted the Rubymar cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden and it is now at risk of sinking, the group’s military spokesperson Yahya Sarea said in a statement on Monday.

The ship is British and the crew are safe, he said, adding the Houthis had also shot down a US drone in Hodeidah.

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A Belize-flagged, UK-registered and Lebanese-operated open hatch general cargo ship came under attack in the Bab Al Mandab Strait off Yemen on Sunday, British maritime security firm Ambrey said.

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The UK Maritime Trade Operations agency reported the crew had abandoned a ship off Yemen after an explosion.

On Sunday, the United States conducted five self-defence strikes in areas of Yemen controlled by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia, US Central Command said.

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It said it struck three mobile anti-ship cruise missiles, one unmanned underwater vessel and one unmanned surface vessel on Saturday.

“This is the first observed Houthi employment of a UUV since attacks began in Oct. 23,” CENTCOM said in a post on X.

Central Command said it had determined the missiles and vessels presented an imminent threat to US Navy ships and merchant ships in the area.

The Houthi attacks in the Red Sea area have been one sign of spreading conflict in the Middle East since war erupted between Israel and Hamas after the militant Palestinian group’s deadly assault on Israel on Oct.7.

The Houthis, who control the most populous parts of Yemen, say their attacks are in solidarity with Palestinians as Israel strikes Gaza. But the US and its allies characterize them as indiscriminate and a menace to global trade.

Faced with mounting Red Sea violence, major shipping lines have largely abandoned the critical trade route for longer routes around Africa. This has increased costs, feeding worries about global inflation while sapping Egypt of crucial foreign revenue from shippers sailing the Suez Canal to or from the Red Sea.