Suspected Houthi attack targets a ship in the Gulf of Aden, while Iraqi-claimed attack targets Eilat

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A suspected missile attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels early Wednesday targeted a ship in the Gulf of Aden, while a separate drone attack claimed by Iraqi militants allied with the rebels targeted the southern Israeli port city of Eilat, authorities said.

The attacks follow the departure of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower after an eight-month deployment in which the aircraft carrier led the American response to the Houthi assaults. Those attacks have reduced shipping drastically through the route crucial to Asian, Middle East and European markets in a campaign the Houthis say will continue as long as the Israel-Hamas war rages in the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, the Iran-backed Houthis faced allegations that they seized commercial aircraft that brought back pilgrims from the Hajj amid a widening economic dispute between the rebels and Yemen’s exiled government.

The ship attack happened off the coast of Aden, the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center said. The captain “of a merchant vessel reported a missile impacted the water in close proximity to the vessel,” the UKMTO said.

The Joint Maritime Information Center, which is overseen by the U.S. Navy, later identified the vessel as the Saint Kitts- and Nevis-flagged bulk carrier Lila Lisbon.

“The vessel was not hit and all crew on board are safe,” the center said.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military said early Wednesday that a drone “fell off the coast of Eilat.” It said the drone was monitored “throughout the incident and it did not cross into Israeli territory.”

The Houthis have targeted Eilat before with drones and missiles. However, an Iranian-backed umbrella group known as the Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed the attack. That group recently began what it and the Houthis describe as joint operations over the Israel-Hamas war.

The Houthis did not claim the ship attack, but it can take the rebels hours or even days before they acknowledge their assaults. Houthi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree on Wednesday night claimed a separate attack on another city in Israel with the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, though there was no evidence of an assault there.

The rebels have targeted more than 60 vessels by firing missiles and drones in their campaign that has killed a total of four sailors. They seized one vessel and sunk two since November. A U.S.-led airstrike campaign has targeted the Houthis since January, with a series of strikes on May 30 killing at least 16 people and wounding 42 others, the rebels say.

The Houthis maintain that their attacks target ships linked to Israel, the United States or Britain. However, many of the ships attacked have little or no connection to the Israel-Hamas war — including those bound for Iran.

Late on Tuesday, Saree claimed an attack Monday on the Liberian-flagged, Greek-managed container ship MSC Sarah V. Late on Wednesday, the Houthis claimed that they used a new hypersonic ballistic missile in the assault, which targeted a ship farther away than nearly all of the previous assaults they’ve launched in the Gulf of Aden.

The U.S. military’s Central Command also said it destroyed a Houthi radar site.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, the minister in charge of Hajj for Yemen’s exiled government alleged the Houthis seized aircraft from the country’s flag carrier, Yemenia, that had brought back pilgrims from the Hajj in Saudi Arabia.

“The Houthis detained four planes at Sanaa International Airport and prevented their return to Jeddah airport to transport our country’s pilgrims who want to return to Sanaa,” minister Mohammed Shabiba wrote on the social platform X, asking pilgrims still in Mecca to remain there.

The Houthis did not acknowledge the seizure. However, at least two Airbus A320s associated with Yemenia appeared to be stuck on the ground in Sanaa without explanation, according to flight-tracking data. A later statement by Yemenia said the Houthis held three Airbus A320s and an Airbus A330 “that has been detained for more than a month.” It said the flights were to transfer some 8,400 Hajj pilgrims from Houthi-held areas.

The seizure “threatens the safety of air navigation in the country and increases the difficulty of operating flights to and from within the country,” Yemenia said in its statement carried by the SABA news agency controlled by Yemen’s exiled government.

The Houthis and Yemen’s exiled government have been increasingly at odds in recent months over economic issues, even after a long push by a Saudi-led coalition backing the government to end the country’s war.

The Houthis have faced issues with having enough currency to support the economy in areas they hold — something signaled by their move to introduce a new coin into the Yemeni currency, the riyal. Yemen’s exiled government in Aden and other nations criticized the move, saying the Houthis are turning to counterfeiting.

Aden authorities have demanded all banks move their headquarters there as a means to stop the worst slide ever in the riyal’s value and re-exert their control over the economy. Aden also is pushing for other businesses to leave Sanaa.

Meanwhile, the Houthis have taken captive local Yemeni employees of the United Nations, aid groups and the former U.S. Embassy in Sanaa as part of a major crackdown. Following a pattern of their Iranian backers, the Houthis have aired repeated videos of the captives that appear to be taken under duress, alleging they are spies based in some cases on emails praising their work helping Yemenis.


Associated Press writer Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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