DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Yemen’s Houthi rebels fired two missiles Monday at a ship bound for a port in Iran. According to authorities, they caused minor damage but did not injure the crew.
The attack on the Marshall Islands-flagged, Greek-operated bulk carrier Star Iris shows how extensively the Houthis are now targeting ships passing through the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait connects both waterways.
The Star Iris was traveling from Brazil to Bandar Khomeini in Iran, the Houthis’ main supporter and gunman in the years-long war in Yemen.
“The owner and operator of the group regularly trades bulk cargo with Iran, so this was assessed as a likely target,” said Ambrey, a private security firm. Ambrey added that the Star Iris sustained damage to its starboard side in the attack.
The Houthis tried to call the Star Iris an “American” ship and said they attacked the ship with multiple missiles. The ultimate owner of the Star Iris, Star Bulk Carriers Corp. from Athens, Greece, is traded on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange in New York. A request for comment was not responded to.
Days earlier, another Star Bulk ship, the Star Nasia, was attacked by the Houthis.
The Houthi military “will not hesitate to conduct further operations in retaliation for the Zionist crimes against our brothers in the Gaza Strip, as well as in response to the ongoing US-British aggression against our dear country,” said Houthi military spokesman Brigadier General. Gen. Yahya Saree said in a statement after the attack.
The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations Center, which monitors Middle East waters, reported the attack and said it occurred as the Star Iris was heading south through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which separates East Africa from the Arabian Peninsula separates.
The ship’s captain “reported his vessel was attacked by two missiles and reported minor damage,” the UKMTO said. “Ship and crew are safe. Ship is heading to the next port of call.”
The attack on the Star Iris follows days in which no Houthi attacks on ships were reported. It is unclear what caused the pause, although the U.S. and British militaries have carried out multiple airstrikes on the Houthis’ missile arsenals and launch sites in areas they control.
Since November, the rebels have repeatedly attacked ships in the Red Sea in connection with the Israeli offensive in Gaza. They have frequently targeted ships with weak or no clear ties to Israel, endangering shipping on a key trade route linking Asia, the Middle East and Europe.