The Yemeni Houthi rebels claimed responsibility early Friday for strikes against an American merchant ship circulating in the Gulf of Aden, a new attack by this pro-Iran group which, however, did not cause any damage according to Washington.
“The naval forces of the Yemeni armed forces (the name given to the armed wing of the Houthis, editor’s note) carried out a targeted operation against an American ship, the Chem Ranger, in the Gulf of Aden with several anti-ship missiles, some of which hit their target,” they said in a statement.
The American military command in the Middle East (Centcom) confirmed that the Houthis had indeed targeted, but with “two missiles”, the merchant ship Chem Ranger without however reaching it as the rebels claim.
The crew “saw the missiles hit the water near the ship” and “there were no reports of injuries or damage,” Centcom added.
According to the specialist site Marine Traffic, the Chem Ranger is an American tanker flying the flag of the Marshall Islands which has been off the coast of Yemen in recent days.
For its part, the British Maritime Safety Agency (UKMTO) reported an incident 115 nautical miles southeast of the city of Aden with an explosion 30 meters from the ship and specified that a drone had stolen nearby.
“A response to American and British attacks is inevitable, any further aggression will be punished,” argued the Houthis, saying they only target ships going to Israel “as long as there is no ceasefire and that the siege will not be lifted on Gaza.
In an interview with the Russian daily Izvestia, published Friday, a member of the political leadership of the Houthis, Mohammed al-Bukhait, castigated “the madness and idiocy of the United States and the United Kingdom” which “played against them “.
“From now on, none of their ships will be able to cross one of the main trade routes in the world,” says the rebel leader, assuring that “other countries, including China and Russia” are not threatened: “we are even ready to ensure safe passage of their ships through the Red Sea.
The United States struck Houthi sites in Yemen for the fifth time on Thursday, in response to attacks by the Iran-backed group on merchant ships in the Red Sea, a crucial area for international trade.
More specifically, Washington said it struck Houthi missiles. “We believe they were ready for imminent launch into the Red Sea,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.
Deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense, Sabrina Singh, said that these bombings, which began at the end of last week and sometimes carried out with the United Kingdom, could have “destroyed a significant part of the capabilities” of the Houthis.
In Moscow, however, the Russian Foreign Minister called on the United States to stop its “aggression” against Yemen. “The more the Americans and the British bomb, the less the Houthis will want to talk,” Sergei Lavrov said.
Thursday’s American bombings were the second in less than 24 hours on missiles from the Houthis, a group put back on Wednesday by Washington on one of its lists of “terrorist organizations”.
US President Joe Biden declared this week that these strikes would continue as long as the Houthis disrupt international maritime trade off the coast of Yemen.
Denmark enters the scene
This Iran-backed group has attacked dozens of merchant ships it considers “linked to Israel” in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden since the start of the war between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
These attacks, which they say they are carrying out in “solidarity” with the population of this Palestinian territory under the control of their Hamas allies and ravaged by war, have forced many shipowners to suspend the passage of their fleets through the Red Sea for reroute around Africa via the Cape of Good Hope, increasing the time and cost of shipping.
Faced with these attacks, the United States set up a coalition to patrol off the coast of Yemen and protect maritime traffic.
Not all the countries in this coalition are participating in the strikes, but Denmark, the birthplace of No. 2 in global shipping Maersk, announced Thursday that it would join. France has decided not to participate “to avoid any escalation” in the region, according to its president Emmanuel Macron.
This article is originally published on arabnews.fr