US Military Strikes Huthi Rebels in Clash Over Red Sea Attack
The United States military announced on Sunday that its forces had fired on Huthi rebels after they attacked a cargo ship in the Red Sea. This led to the deaths of several rebels in an escalation of the maritime conflict linked to the war in Gaza.
According to the US Central Command, the crew of the USS Gravely initially shot down two anti-ship ballistic missiles, which were fired towards the Maersk Hangzhou, a cargo ship sailing under the flag of Singapore, on Saturday night. After the vessel reported being hit by a missile earlier that same evening while navigating the Southern Red Sea, four small boats then attacked the same cargo ship with light-arms fire in the early hours of Sunday. The US Navy reported that the rebels attempted to board the vessel. Subsequently, the USS Gravely and helicopters from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower responded to the Maersk Hangzhou’s distress call, issuing verbal warnings to the attackers, who responded by firing at the helicopters. The US Navy helicopters then fired in self-defense, sinking three of the four boats and killing those on board, while the fourth boat fled the area. No US personnel or equipment were reported to have been damaged, and there were no casualties on the cargo ship.
The Huthis confirmed that 10 of their fighters died in the confrontation. They also warned of consequences that may follow. These incidents have been associated with the 23rd illegal Huthi assault on international maritime transportation since November 19, according to the US Central Command. This marked the first time the US Navy reported killing Huthi combatants since the attacks in the Red Sea began. “For over a month, Huthi insurgents backed by Iran have claimed attacks on ships in the Red Sea, which they say are linked to Israel or headed to Israeli ports,” the Command added.
The Huthis have made clear that their attacks aim to put an end to the Israeli air and ground offensive in Gaza following the October 7 militant group Hamas attack in southern Israel. However, as the rebel attacks continue, their ties to the targeted vessels have become increasingly tenuous. Danish shipping giant Maersk, which owns the Maersk Hangzhou, announced on Sunday that it would suspend shipping through the Red Sea following the two attacks. “In light of the most recent incident, and to allow time to investigate the details of the incident and to assess further the security situation,” Maersk quoted by Danish broadcaster DR.
The head of US naval forces in the Middle East stated on Saturday that the Huthi rebels have displayed no signs of ending their “reckless” attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea, even as more nations join in the international maritime mission to protect ships in the vital waterway and commercial traffic begins to rise. Since the Pentagon announced Operation Prosperity Guardian to counter the attacks just over 10 days ago, 1,200 merchant ships have traveled through the Red Sea region, and none have been hit by drone or missile attacks, according to Vice Admiral Brad Cooper.