The Galaxy Leader, recently seized by Yemen, shown in close-up satellite imagery near Hodeida, Yemen.
Maxar | Getty Images
Yemen’s Houthi militants on Tuesday claimed an attack against a Norwegian tanker, days after the group pledged to target Israel-bound ships of any nationality.
The vessel Strinda was headed for Israel when it was “targeted with a suitable naval missile” after its crew “refused to respond to warning,” Houthi spokesperson Yahya Saree said on social media on Tuesday.
The U.S. Central Command said on social media that the tanker Strinda was late on Monday “attacked by what is assessed to have been an Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM) launched from a Houthi controlled area of Yemen while passing through the Bab-el-Mandeb” strait in the vicinity of Yemen. Centcom said that the Strinda reported damage that caused a fire on board, but no casualties.
There were no U.S. ships in the vicinity at the time of the attack, but the country’s destroyer class vessel, the USS Mason, responded to the Strinda’s mayday call and rendered assistance, Centcom added.
The vessel’s Norwegian owner, Mowinckels Rederi, confirmed that the Strinda was hit by a missile and caught fire.
“Fortunately, there were no injuries to any member of the crew, who managed to extinguish the fire,” the company told CNBC by email, adding that the vessel was carrying feedstock for biofuel and was en route from Malaysia to Italy with a fully Indian crew and is now proceeding to safe harbor.
The attack against the Strinda comes within days of the Houthi’s Dec. 9 announcement that the Yemeni force would broaden its naval offensives to now target all vessels headed for Israel, irrespective of nationality, “if the food and medicine keep not accessing the Gaza Strip.”
The Houthi had previously declared hostilities against tankers with an Israeli affiliation, but proceeded to commandeer Japanese-operated cargo ship Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea in late November, which remains at Yemeni port Hodeida. Since then, the Houthi has harassed multiple other ships at sea with drone and missile attacks in a show of escalating support for the Palestinian cause.
The latest attack worsens security concerns over popular transit routes in the Red Sea and over the possibility that the conflict between U.S.-allied Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas will spill into the broader Middle Eastern region. The U.S. is in talks with other countries to form a maritime task forces to escort commercial ships in the Red Sea, U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan said on Dec. 5, according to the Associated Press.
The Houthi has previously cited solidarity with the Palestinian people — who have faced an assiduous Israeli siege and ground incursion since the Hamas terror attacks of Oct. 7 — for the Yemeni group’s repeated offensives against Israel. Both Hamas and the Houthi are sponsored by Iran.