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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Missile strikes Norwegian tanker in Red Sea

Houthi rebels have carried out a series of attacks on vessels which they claim are bound for Israel

A missile fired by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels struck a Norwegian-flagged tanker in the Red Sea on Monday, a representative of the Islamist rebel group has confirmed.

The attack on the oil and chemical tanker Strinda is the latest flashpoint in a campaign by the Houthis during which they have attacked, and in at least one case seized, ships navigating close to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait off Yemen’s coast.

Read more: Iran unveils its newest hypersonic missile

The rebel group has previously stated its intention to confront any vessels in the area believed to be destined for Israel, prompting concerns that the Israel-Hamas conflict could spiral into a deeper regional crisis and threaten shipping routes coming through the Suez Canal.

In a video statement on Tuesday, Houthi spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree said that rebels fired upon the Strinda after it “rejected all warning calls.” On Saturday, the rebel group said that it would target all ships bound for Israel regardless of their country of origin. They also warned they would continue to do so until Israel permits the unobstructed delivery of food and medical aid into Gaza.

Citing local media sources, The Times of Israel reported on Tuesday that the Strinda was due to anchor at Israel’s Ashdod port next month. The tanker’s owner, Norwegian firm Mowinckel Chemical Tankers, said that the ship was traveling to Italy – but did acknowledge the possibility of an Israeli port visit in January.

Read more: Israel deploys missile boats in Red Sea as Houthis attack from Yemen

In a Tuesday statement, the company said it had decided to “withhold” information regarding its possible docking in Israel upon recommendation from security advisers “until the vessel and her crew were in safe waters.” It was also noted that all crew members are unhurt and safe.

Responding to the attack, Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Eivind Vad Petersson said that the Scandinavian country “condemns in the strongest possible terms all attacks on civilian shipping.”

A statement issued on Tuesday by the US military’s Central Command confirmed that the US Navy destroyer USS Mason had responded to Strinda’s mayday call. A separate statement provided to Reuters by a US official said that the Norwegian ship was not badly damaged and can operate under its own power.

The Iran-aligned Houthis are among several groups – Lebanon’s Hezbollah included – that have attacked Israeli targets in response to its war with the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Earlier in December, three commercial vessels were attacked in the Red Sea, while last month a British-owned cargo ship was seized by the rebel group.

The US and UK have condemned the shipping attacks, while Iran has said that its allies make their decisions independently from Tehran. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has called upon Washington to express restraint in any response to the attacks.