Thursday, May 23, 2024

US says Houthi missile attack on coalition ship foiled as Yemen violence escalates

HomeWARUS says Houthi missile attack on coalition ship foiled as Yemen violence...

The crew of an American commercial vessel found themselves caught in the crosshairs of Yemen’s brutal civil war this week, as Iranian-backed Houthi rebels launched an audacious missile attack in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

The harrowing incident began when the MV Yorktown, a US-flagged cargo ship carrying 22 mariners, was sailing through the Gulf of Aden off Yemen’s coast on Wednesday. According to the US military’s Central Command, the ship’s crew reported an ominous sighting – an incoming anti-ship ballistic missile rapidly closing in on their position.

In a scenario seemingly ripped from the pages of a Tom Clancy novel, a Coalition maritime patrol plane raced to intercept the missile before it could strike the defenseless vessel. US officials say their aircraft managed to shoot down the projectile just in time, averting what could have been a catastrophic explosion and loss of life.

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It was a narrow brush with disaster, but merely the latest provocative act in a rapidly escalating conflict that risks enveloping the region and potentially dragging in the US military. The Houthi rebels, who control large swaths of Yemen, swiftly claimed responsibility for the missile strike on the Yorktown as well as separate alleged attacks on an American Navy destroyer and Israeli-operated ship in the Indian Ocean.

“This reckless escalation only strengthens our resolve to uphold freedom of navigation for maritime traffic,” thundered Gen. Michael Kurilla, the top US commander in the Middle East. American officials condemned the “irresponsible” attacks, vowing the US is prepared to vigorously defend its interests and allies.

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The incident punctuates a deeply worrying trend. In recent months, the battle-hardened Houthi fighters have orchestrated a barrage of drone and missile assaults targeting commercial shipping in the Red Sea region. Their purported goal? Expressing solidarity with Palestinians through acts of aggression against the US and Israel during flareups of Mideast violence.

For global trade, the timing couldn’t be worse. The Houthi strikes are sowing chaos along a critical maritime chokepoint, forcing cargo companies to take costly detours and delaying shipments. Around 10% of the world’s trade flows through the Red Sea shipping corridor each year, including vital oil exports to Europe and goods transported via the Suez Canal.

While Houthi capabilities remain limited compared to nation-states, their growing willingness to lash out at non-military commercial assets risks increasing casualties and economic disruptions. Analysts worry the rebels may have acquired new weapons and training from Iran to extend their offensive reach.

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A shaky UN-brokered truce temporarily froze fighting in Yemen last year. But that seems to be unraveling now amid a forceful Houthi push to seize more territory from the Saudi-backed government. Yemen has emerged as a bloody proxy war between regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Iran, with Houthi forces demonstrating an troubling ability to strike far beyond Yemen’s borders.

For merchant sailors simply trying to complete their voyages and return home to loved ones, the situation is increasingly perilous. As one maritime risk analyst lamented, “The Red Sea is looking more and more like a warzone where commercial shipping finds itself in the crosshairs.”

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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