31 Dec 2023, 23:06

US strikes kill 10 Huthi rebels attacking ship in Red Sea

   HODEIDA, Yemen, Dec  31, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - The US military said Sunday its
Navy helicopters fired at Iran-backed Huthi rebel boats off Yemen that were
attacking a cargo ship, with Yemeni sources reporting 10 rebels killed.

       The clash in the Red Sea marked a deadly escalation since the United States
set up a multinational naval task force in early December to protect the vital
shipping lane against Huthi attacks.

       The rebels -- who say they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians in
the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza -- have repeatedly fired drones and missiles at
passing ships in the straits through which 12 percent of global trade passes.

       US Central Command said the Navy had responded to a distress call from the
Maersk Hangzhou, a Singapore-flagged, Denmark-owned and operated container ship
that reported coming under attack for a second time in 24 hours while
transiting the Red Sea.

       The vessel had earlier been targeted with two anti-ship ballistic missiles.
One was shot down by the US military and the other hit the Maersk Hangzhou.

       The Huthis had then fired on US helicopters, which "returned fire in
self-defence", sinking three of four small boats that had come within 20 meters
(65 feet) of the ship, according to the CENTCOM statement.

       It said the crews of the three vessels were killed while a fourth boat fled
the area.

       "Ten Huthis were killed and two were wounded in the US strike on Huthi
boats that tried to stop a vessel in the sea off Hodeida," said a source, who
asked not to be named, at Yemen's rebel-controlled Hodeida port.

       Another port source, also requesting anonymity, said that "four survivors
have arrived in Hodeida with two wounded who were taken to hospital".
       - Maersk suspends Red Sea transit -
       Maersk suspended the passage of its vessels through the Red Sea strait for
48 hours after the latest of about two dozen attacks by Huthis on international
shipping in six weeks.

       The cargo ship, en route from Singapore to Egypt's Port Suez, had made an
earlier distress call after it was struck by the Huthi missile.

       CENTCOM said that assault was the 23rd illegal attack by the Huthis on
international shipping since November 19.

       The vessel appeared to be undamaged and "was able to continue its transit
north", Maersk, one of the world's largest shipping companies, said in a

       The cargo ship was then fired on by four Huthi rebel vessels that attempted
to board the vessel, according to the shipping company.

       "In light of the incident -- and to allow time to investigate the details
of the incident and assess the security situation further -- it has been
decided to delay all transits through the area for the next 48 hours," it added.

       Regional tensions have spiked since the outbreak of the Gaza war.

       Israel has been pounding the besieged Palestinian territory relentlessly
since the Hamas militant group launched an unprecedented attacked on October 7.

       That attack killed about 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to an
AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

       Israel's bombardment of Gaza and a ground offensive have killed 21,672
people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in Gaza.

       US forces in Iraq and Syria have also repeatedly come under fire from drone
and rocket attacks that Washington says are being carried out by Iran-backed
armed groups.

       And Israel has traded regular cross-border fire with the Iran-backed
Hezbollah movement in Lebanon.