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Houthi militants struck a U.S.-owned commercial ship off the coast of Yemen

Houthi fighters and tribesmen stage a rally against the U.S. and the U.K. strikes on Houthi-run military sites near Sanaa, Yemen, on Sunday, Jan. 14.
AP
Houthi fighters and tribesmen stage a rally against the U.S. and the U.K. strikes on Houthi-run military sites near Sanaa, Yemen, on Sunday, Jan. 14.

Houthi rebels in Yemen struck a U.S.-owned and -operated container ship with an anti-ship ballistic missile on Monday as it passed through the Red Sea, the U.S. military said

According to U.S. Central Command, the missile hit the M/V Gibraltar Eagle, a commercial carrier flagged to the Marshall Islands, around 4 p.m. local time after being fired from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen. No injuries or significant damage were reported.

The latest attack comes less than a week after the United States and the United Kingdom, along with their allies, began conducting a series of air strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen. The Pentagon says the U.S. and its allies hit 60 Houthi targets across 28 different locations this past Thursday, followed by another round of strikes over the weekend.

The campaign by the U.S. and its allies came in response to a recent uptick in Houthi attacks against commercial vessels sailing through the Red Sea past Yemen, which has dogged international shipping through the area.

"These targeted strikes are a clear message that the United States and our partners will not tolerate attacks on our personnel or allow hostile actors to imperil freedom of navigation in one of the world's most critical commercial routes," President Biden said when he announced the strikes last week. "I will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary."

The U.S. military said Monday that the Houthis fired another missile toward the Red Sea shipping lanes earlier in the afternoon, but that missile failed mid-flight and landed on the ground in Yemen. No injuries or damage were reported in that incident.

The Houthis say they're attacking commercial ships with ties to Israel until Israel ends its military campaign against Hamas in Gaza, which began after the Hamas attack on October 7.

The Iranian-backed rebel group has used fighters and drones to attack ships, and also fired missiles at vessels passing through the southern Red Sea, forcing more than 2,000 ships to divert their course to avoid an attack. Some of the attacks have damaged ships, but U.S. warships have shot down many of the missiles and drones.

The surge in attacks by the Houthis and their vocal support from Iran has raised fears that the war between Israel and Hamas could grow into a wider conflict in the Middle East.

A spokesperson for Iran — which has supported the Houthis with weapons, intelligence and other aid — blasted the air strikes by Western powers and said the rebel group would continue targeting ships in the Red Sea.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joe Hernandez