Red Sea Ships Cautioned After Suspected Houthi Missile Hits Vessel Off Hodeidah

By Saeed Al-Batati

The UK Maritime Trade Operations cautioned ships traveling in the Red Sea on Monday to exercise caution after reports of an explosion 71 nautical miles southwest of Saleef in Yemen’s Hodeidah province, which is held by the Houthis.

This comes as Yemen’s Houthi militia pledged to continue attacking ships passing through the Red Sea, Bab Al-Mandab Strait, and Gulf of Aden during the holy month of Ramadan.

“The master reported the sound of an explosion in the vicinity of the vessel. Vessels are reported safe. Coalition Forces are investigating,” UKMTO, which tracks down ship attacks, said in a statement.

Ambrey, another UK maritime organization that issues warnings about ship assaults, reported receiving information about a missile explosion in Yemen’s Red Sea port city of Hodeidah.

Until Monday afternoon, the Houthis had not claimed credit for fresh strikes on ships in the Red Sea, although they often issue comments hours after each attack.

Since November, the Houthis have seized a commercial ship and launched hundreds of missiles, drones, and remotely controlled bomb boats at commercial and naval ships in international waters off Yemen’s coast in what the Yemeni militia claims are actions in support of Palestine and retaliation for US and UK bombardment of areas under their control in Yemen.

The Houthis claim that their strikes are intended to push Israel to let humanitarian aid, such as water, food, and medicine, into the beleaguered Gaza Strip in Palestine.

Speaking to his supporters on Sunday, Houthi leader Abdul Malik Al-Houthi said the movement would continue to launch attacks on international ships, including US Navy ships, during Ramadan until Israel lifted its siege on Gaza and urged his followers to hold large rallies on Fridays in support of Palestine and the Red Sea ship attacks.

At the same time, UN Yemen Envoy Hans Grundberg urged Yemeni parties on Monday to strive toward peace in Yemen during Ramadan, as UN-brokered talks to end the war in Yemen have been virtually stalled since the Houthis initiated assaults on ships.

“As a time of compassion, reflection, and unity, I hope this Ramadan inspires these values in everyone and brings Yemen closer to peace,” Grundberg said in Ramadan greetings to Yemenis.

Fighting in Yemen has significantly lessened since April 2022, when the UN-brokered ceasefire went into effect.

Despite gaining assurances from Yemeni parties to back his plan to end the conflict, the UN Yemen envoy recently informed the Yemeni government that his peace efforts had been broken by the Houthi Red Sea raids as well as the US classification of the Houthis as a terrorist organization.

Meanwhile, Rashad Al-Alimi, president of Yemen’s internationally recognized Presidential Leadership Council, accused the Houthis of driving Yemenis into widespread starvation after their Red Sea strikes raised shipping and insurance prices and impeded the supply of crucial products into Yemen.

In a speech on Sunday on the eve of the first day of Ramadan, the Yemeni leader said that the Houthis are exploiting the suffering of Palestinians to launch attacks on ships to break their group’s international isolation and relieve public pressure on them for failing to pay salaries and deliver services. 

“The militias hope, in vain, that this escalation would break their international isolation and impose a fait accompli on behalf of the Yemenis, who have bravely opposed their racist scheme for a decade and will do so to the end,” Al-Alimi said.