American forces struck a Houthi rebel site in Yemen early Saturday after the latter attacked a British tanker which “caught fire” in the Gulf of Aden, a new episode in their campaign targeting international maritime traffic in “solidarity » with Gaza.
“At approximately 3:45 a.m. local time, the US Middle East Military Command (Centcom) carried out a strike against a Houthi anti-ship missile that was about to be launched into the Red Sea,” he announced on X, specifying that this missile presented an “imminent threat” to American destroyers and merchant ships in the region.
Rebels close to Iran, who are increasing attacks on merchant shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, indicated on Friday evening that they had fired “missiles” against a “British oil tanker, the Marlin Luanda”, specifying that the ship, “hit head on, caught fire”.
The rebels’ military spokesman, Yahya Saree, added in his statement that the attack was carried out in support of the Palestinian people and “in response to British and American aggression against our country.”
The Trafigura group, which operates the Marlin Luanda, said on Saturday that no casualties had been reported, and the ship was heading to a safe port on Saturday with the fire extinguished.
The Marlin Luanda, which was “carrying for commercial purposes a cargo of naphtha, a highly flammable liquid hydrogen mixture,” was hit by an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) in the Gulf of Aden, he said. precise.
Houthi-run Al-Masirah TV claimed on Saturday that the United States and the United Kingdom had launched two airstrikes on the port of Ras Issa in Hodeida province, home to the main export terminal oil from Yemen. The rebels did not provide details of the attack, which has not been confirmed by Washington or London.
On Friday, the United States destroyed an anti-ship ballistic missile fired “from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen” and aimed at an Arleigh-Burke-class destroyer, a US warship.
Since November, Houthi rebels have fired numerous missiles and drones off the coast of Yemen, saying they target ships linked to Israel in “solidarity” with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, territory bombed and besieged by the Israeli army since the bloody attack by the Islamist movement Hamas on October 7.
In response, US forces, sometimes jointly with the UK, have carried out a series of strikes targeting the Houthis in an attempt to deter them from continuing to attack merchant ships, without success so far. The American strikes particularly targeted missile and drone launch sites.
On Thursday, Washington and London announced sanctions against four senior Houthi officials, accused of being involved in organizing these attacks.
The Houthis control much of Yemen, after nearly a decade of war against the government, which has caused one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
The head of Yemen’s Presidential Council on Saturday requested support from Washington and Riyadh to “eliminate the military capabilities of the Houthis”.
British Defense Minister Grant Shapps reaffirmed on Saturday London’s commitment to protecting freedom of navigation, after the latest “intolerable and illegal” Houthi attack.
Their attacks have pushed certain shipowners to suspend passages in the Red Sea, through which up to 12% of world trade normally passes, and to bypass Africa to reach Asia and Europe.
The repercussions on maritime traffic and global trade are already being felt. According to the UN, the volume of trade passing through the Suez Canal, a crucial passage that connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, has fallen by 42% in the last two months.
The disruptions to trade in the Red Sea are all the more worrying given that “more than 80%” of global trade in goods is carried out by sea and that “other important routes are already under tension”, underlines UNCTAD, the UN body responsible for trade and development.
On Thursday, a Houthi delegation was visiting Moscow to discuss the “need to intensify efforts to pressure” the United States and Israel to end the war in Gaza and “deliver humanitarian aid rather than militarizing the Red Sea,” according to a rebel spokesperson.