SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES
Yemen’s Houthi rebel group has said that it carried out drone attacks targeting the Israeli port city of Eilat, as well as a commercial vessel in the Red Sea, as the Iran-backed group steps up attacks that it says are a means of pressuring Israel to end its war in Gaza.
Speaking on Tuesday, Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said the group conducted drone attacks on Eilat and “other areas in occupied Palestine”. Sarea said the group also launched missiles at an MSC United vessel in the Red Sea after it rejected three warning calls.
MSC Mediterranean confirmed that MSC United VIII, which was en route from King Abdullah port in Saudi Arabia to Karachi, Pakistan, came under attack on Tuesday but that the crew was safe. The shipping company says it is conducting an assessment and reported the incident to the US-led naval coalition in the Red Sea.
The statement comes several hours after a British maritime group said it received reports of an incident involving a vessel off the coast of Yemen, saying that drones were sighted and an explosion was heard.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) on Tuesday said the incident took place about 60 nautical miles (111km) outside of Yemen’s Hodeidah port.
“A commercial shipping vessel came under attack by two suicide drones,” Al Jazeera correspondent Resul Serdar reported from Djibouti, located in east Africa across the sea from Yemen.
“It [UKMTO] says the drones didn’t cause any damage on the ship. The ship is now safe, continuing its voyage, and they are in constant communication with the naval coalition formed by the United States.”
The UKMTO report followed two other explosions that struck a vessel off of Hodeidah earlier on Tuesday.
The US has said the Houthis, who control wide swaths of northern Yemen, have launched more than 100 drone and missile attacks, targeting 10 commercial shipping vessels with links to dozens of countries.
The group has also launched missiles and drones at Israel, which has unleashed a devastating assault on the besieged enclave of Gaza where it is battling the Palestinian armed group Hamas following a deadly assault on southern Israel on October 7.
Israel’s assault on Gaza has killed more than 20,000 Palestinians and sparked concerns about the possibility of a wider regional escalation.
The Houthi raids in the Red Sea have caused significant disruptions along the vital shipping route, causing some companies to reroute their vessels at considerable expense.
The US recently announced a security coalition to protect commercial shipping from such raids, conducting patrols in an effort to deter further attacks.
“The United States, just to safeguard that vital maritime route, is increasing its naval presence in the region,” said Serdar, noting that a US destroyer was refuelling in Djibouti on Tuesday.