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Houthi cruise missile hits ship in Bab el-Mandeb Strait

The Norway-flagged vessel was reportedly scheduled to anchor at the port of Ashdod in southern Israel early next month.

The Norway-flagged Strinda motor tanker. Credit: Social media.
The Norway-flagged Strinda motor tanker. Credit: Social media.

An anti-ship cruise missile fired from an area in Yemen controlled by Iranian-backed Houthi terrorists struck a commercial vessel in the Bab al-Mandab Strait on Monday night, the U.S. military announced on Tuesday morning.

The attack caused a fire and damage but no casualties.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said that there were no American ships in the vicinity of the attack, but that the USS Mason responded to the Motor Tanker Strinda‘s distress call and rendered assistance.

The Norway-flagged Strinda is owned by Mowinckel Chemical Tankers, according to Reuters.

Associated Press reported that Geir Belsnes, the CEO of the Strinda’s operator, J. Ludwig Mowinckels Rederi, confirmed that the vessel was proceeding to a safe port.

The Strinda had departed Malaysia bound for the Suez Canal and onward to Italy with its cargo of palm oil, according to AP.

According to Hebrew-language reports, the tanker was scheduled to anchor at the port of Ashdod in southern Israel early next month.

On Saturday, the Houthis announced that they would target every Israel-bound ship in the Red Sea.

The Houthis have recently targeted ships with Israeli owners—the Galaxy Leader, which was brought to the Yemeni port of Hodeidah, and the Central Park, whose hijacking was thwarted by USS Mason. During the hijacking of the Central Park, a missile was fired at the Mason from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen.

From bases along the Yemeni coast, Houthi rebels are able to threaten shipping in the Red Sea as vessels traverse the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a narrow maritime choke point between the Arabian Peninsula and Africa. The majority of the world’s oil passes through the strait from the Indian Ocean towards the Suez Canal and Mediterranean Sea.

The United States has been consulting with Gulf allies about potential military action against the Houthis in response to the attacks, Bloomberg reported on Friday, citing officials with knowledge of the discussions.

The talks are at a “preliminary stage” as Washington and its partners still favor diplomacy over direct confrontation, according to the report.

On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Biden administration had asked Israel not to respond to Houthi attacks lest it spark a wider regional conflict.

Israel’s Channel 12 reported on Saturday night that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nevertheless told U.S. President Joe Biden that Jerusalem would take military action against the Houthis if the Americans did not act first.

Since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, the Houthis have launched several ballistic and cruise missiles at the Jewish state.

Israel has bolstered its naval presence in the Red Sea area in response to the attacks.

Late last month, an Israeli-owned commercial vessel, the CMA CGM Symi, was attacked by an Iranian drone in the Indian Ocean.

The Malta-flagged Symi was targeted by a “Shahed-136” drone while traveling in international waters. The “suicide” drone caused damage to the ship but no casualties among the crew.

On Friday, the U.S. embassy compound in Baghdad was struck with seven mortar rounds, and American forces in Iraq and Syria were targeted at least five more times with rockets and drones.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq took responsibility for the attacks in a statement.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq is an umbrella term for Iranian-backed radical Shi’ite militias in Iraq—Kata’ib Hezbollah, Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhadaa.

Iranian-backed militia groups began attacking U.S. interests in the region after Washington gave backing to Israel’s war against Hamas in the wake of the terror group’s Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin condemned Friday’s attacks during a call with Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani.

“The United States reserves the right to respond decisively against those groups,” Austin told Sudani, according to a Pentagon readout of the call.

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