Blast hits merchant ship off Yemen as US destroys Houthi drones

Blast hits merchant ship off Yemen as US destroys Houthi drones
An explosion has hit a ship sailing off southern Yemen as the Houthis vowed to step up attacks on what they say is Israel linked shipping.
2 min read
The Houthis have vowed to increase attacks on ships in the Red Sea, saying this is in solidarity with Gaza [Getty]

A vessel sailing off southern Yemen reported an explosion nearby on Sunday, a British maritime security agency said, the latest incident as Houthi rebels continue to attack shipping on the vital Red Sea route.

United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations said a commercial ship "has reported an explosion in close proximity to the vessel", causing no casualties or damage.

The blast hit as the ship was sailing "85 nautical miles east of Aden" in Yemen, and the vessel was "proceeding to its next port of call", said UKMTO, which is run by the Royal Navy.

It did not identify the vessel.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the reported attack, which comes after Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis said they would expand their campaign against ships which they say are linked to Israel.

The Houthis have launched dozens of missile and drone strikes on shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden over the past four months, significantly disrupting global trade.

They say these actions they say are in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, who have been subjected to brutal and indiscriminate Israeli attacks that have killed at least 31,645 people.

The United States, which leads an international coalition meant to protect Red Sea shipping, has since mid-January struck Houthi targets in Yemen.

The US Central Command said on Saturday its forces had "destroyed five unmanned surface vessels and one" drone in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.

CENTCOM earlier said it had shot down a drone fired by the Houthis toward the Red Sea.

Such exchanges have become frequent in the area, sending shipping insurance costs soaring and prompting many firms to detour around the southern tip of Africa.

On Thursday rebel leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi said the group would expand their attacks to ships taking the longer route around Africa's Cape of Good Hope.