Suspected attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels sees missiles strike ship in Gulf of Aden, sparking blaze

Suspected attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels sees missiles strike ship in Gulf of Aden, sparking blaze
A ship in the Gulf of Aden was hit by a missile, reportedly launched by Yemen's Houthi rebels in a suspected attack.
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Houthi officials attend a rally in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, and the recent Houthi strikes on shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden on February 4, 2024 [Getty]

 A suspected attack Thursday by Yemen's Houthi rebels saw missiles strike a ship in the Gulf of Aden, authorities said, setting the vessel ablaze in what would be the latest such assault in their campaign over the Gaza war.

The attack happened in the Gulf of Aden off Yemen, the British military's United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center said. It said the vessel caught fire in the attack.

The private security firm Ambrey said a merchant vessel made a radio distress call saying it had been struck by a missile.

The ship "was en route from Malaysia to Venice, Italy," Ambrey said. It added that the ship was "aligned with the Houthi target profile," without elaborating.

Later on Thursday, the UKMTO reported a second suspected attack off Yemen's port city of Hodeida, but said the blast happened away from the vessel and did not damage it.

The Houthis did not immediately acknowledge Thursday's attacks, but it typically takes the rebels hours or even days to claim them. The attack follows the Houthis launching a boat-borne bomb attack against a commercial ship in the Red Sea on Wednesday.

The Houthis, who seized Yemen’s capital nearly a decade ago and have been fighting a Saudi-led coalition since shortly after, have been targeting shipping throughout the Red Sea corridor .

They say the attacks are aimed at stopping the war and supporting the Palestinians, though the attacks often target vessels that have nothing to do with the conflict .

The war in Gaza has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians there, according to Gaza health officials, while hundreds of others have been killed in Israeli operations in the West Bank.

Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostage.

The Houthis have launched more than 50 attacks on shipping, killed three sailors, seized one vessel and sunk another since November, according to the US Maritime Administration.

A US led airstrike campaign has targeted the Houthis since January, with a series of strikes May 30 killing at least 16 people and wounding 42 others, the rebels say.

Also Thursday, the Washington-based National Democratic Institute said three of its staff were detained by the Houthis earlier this month.

Their detention comes as staff of United Nations agencies and those working for aid groups also have been detained in a widening crackdown by the rebels.

"This arbitrary and inhumane treatment of Yemeni citizens involved in humanitarian assistance, diplomacy, democracy and human rights, peacemaking and civil society development is entirely without foundation and must be ended immediately," the institute said.

It called for the "swift release by the Houthi regime of our staff, and of all individuals who have been unjustly detained."

The institute is a democracy promotion organization that has worked in Yemen since 1993. It receives funding from the US government and others.