The Iran-backed Houthis continued to escalate their attacks on February 19 with a new attack on a ship off the coast of Yemen. The Houthis claimed they struck the ship Rubymar off the coast. According to reports, a ship was attacked in the Bab al-Mandeb strait. The incident occurred around 35 nautical miles from the coast.

According to Arab News, “Yemen’s Houthis targeted the Rubymar cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden, and it is now at risk of sinking, the group’s military spokesperson Yahya Sarea said in a statement on Monday. The ship is British, and the crew are safe, he said, adding the Houthis had also shot down a US drone in Hodeidah.”

The UK Maritime Trade Operations agency reported the crew had abandoned a ship off Yemen after an explosion. “The attack on the ship came as the US military acknowledged conducting new airstrikes targeting the militia, including one that targeted the first Houthi underwater drone seen since the militias began launching their attacks on shipping in November,” Arab News noted.

This is the latest escalation by the Houthis, which have proven they are not going to stop attacking ships, despite the US and other countries acting to strike their capabilities. For instance, on February 17, US Central Command said that US forces had to conduct “five self-defense strikes against three mobile anti-ship cruise missiles, one unmanned underwater vessel (UUV), and one unmanned surface vessel (USV) in Iranian-backed Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. This is the first observed Houthi employment of a UUV since attacks began in Oct. 23.”

The decision by the Houthis to use unmanned “underwater vessels” presents a new danger. The group has already used ballistic missiles and small watercraft as well as helicopters in its attacks on ships. CENTCOM says that its “actions will protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure for U.S. Navy and merchant vessels.”

However, there are questions about whether the Houthis can and will be deterred. The Iran-backed Houthis were pressed by Iran in October to join Hezbollah and Hamas in beginning attacks on Israel. In addition, Iran operationalized militias in Iraq and Syria to attack US forces. As such, the Houthis are a key frontline force for Iran now. Iran requires the Houthis to continue to act against shipping. Even a few attacks a month are apparently enough to deter some shipping companies from using the important shipping lane via the Red Sea.

Source » jpost