Explosion strikes near vessel in the Red Sea off Yemen as Houthi rebel attacks continue


JERUSALEM (AP) — Yemen’s Houthi rebels fired two ballistic missiles Thursday at a Liberian-flagged container ship in the Red Sea, a U.S. defense official said, the latest attack by the rebels as America launches airstrikes targeting them.

The attack happened west of Hodeida, a port city in Yemen long held by the rebels, said the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, a British military group overseeing Mideast waterways. It said the crew and the vessel were safe and the blast came far off the vessel’s starboard side.

The U.S. defense official identified the targeted container ship as the Koi. Its management could not be immediately reached for comment. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

The Houthis did not immediately claim responsibility for the assault. The private security firm Ambrey reported Wednesday night that a ship was targeted with a missile southwest of Aden, Yemen, near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The Houthis claimed that attack also targeted the Koi, though American officials had no immediate information on any attack Wednesday night.

Since November, the rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea over Israel’s offensive in Gaza against Hamas. But they have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, imperiling shipping in a key route for global trade between Asia, the Mideast and Europe.

The Houthis hit a commercial vessel with a missile on Jan. 26, sparking a fire that burned for hours.

Late Wednesday, American F/A-18 fighter jets struck and destroyed 10 Houthi drones that were prepared to launch, as well as a ground control station used by the rebels, the U.S. military said. The U.S. also intercepted a ballistic missile and other drones already in the air during the day.

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