A Ship in the Gulf of Aden Is Attacked by a Drone Likely Launched by Houthi Rebels

by Braxton Taylor

JERUSALEM — A ship in the Gulf of Aden came under attack Wednesday from a bomb-carrying drone, the British military said, in a strike likely launched by Houthi rebels.

The attack happened some 70 miles (110 kilometers) southeast of Aden, where the drone smashed into the vessel, said the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, an arm of the British navy that oversees Mideast waterways.

The ship’s captain reported there was fire onboard which has now been extinguished, it said. “Vessel and crew are safe and proceeding to next port of call.”

The British military did not immediately identify the vessel, nor whom they suspected in the attack. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

However, the Houthis have launched a series of similar attacks on vessels since November in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.

The Houthis say the attacks are aimed at backing Hamas and Palestinians trapped in the Gaza Strip amid Israel’s war on Hamas. But they have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, imperiling shipping in a key route for global trade.

The U.S. and its allies have carried out three rounds of airstrikes targeting Houthi sites over the last week, to try to deter the militants. However, the Houthis have launched several attacks in the time since, further imperiling ships traveling on a crucial trade route for cargo and energy shipments moving from Asia and the Middle East toward Europe.

The Houthi attacks are one part of the wider tensions gripping the region. Iran staged airstrikes late Monday in Iraq, killing at least four people. The U.K.’s ambassador to Iraq, Stephen Hitchen, said Wednesday that a British national, Karam Mikhael, was among the civilians killed there.

Meanwhile, Iran has been edging closer to acknowledging its own role in attacking a vessel in the Indian Ocean near Sri Lanka and India back on Jan. 4. Then, the chemical tanker Pacific Gold was struck by what the U.S. Navy called “an Iranian one-way attack” drone, causing some damage to the vessel but no injuries.

On Wednesday, the Lebanese broadcaster Al-Mayadeen reported Iran’s Revolutionary Guard carried out that attack, as well as another one not independently confirmed on a separate vessel. Al-Mayadeen is a channel politically affiliated with Hezbollah that has previously announced other Iran-linked attacks in the region.

The Pacific Gold is managed by Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping, a company that is ultimately controlled by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer. Eastern Pacific previously has been targeted in suspected Iranian attacks.

But Iran potentially acknowledging the Pacific Gold attack comes as Tehran has been trying to lash out without directly targeting either the U.S. or Israel.

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Associated Press writer Abby Sewell in Beirut contributed to this report.

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