Crew members killed in first deadly Houthi attack on civilian ship in Red Sea

Washington sanctioned two ship owners and two vessels tied to “an Iran-based, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force-backed Houthi financial facilitator.”

By Akiva Van Koningsveld | | Topics: Yemen, Houthis
They might look primitive, but Yemen's Houthi militia is being provided advanced and long-range weapons by Iran.
They might look primitive, but Yemen's Houthi militia is being provided advanced and long-range weapons by Iran. Photo: EPA-EFE/YAHYA ARHAB

A Houthi ballistic-missile attack on a commercial vessel in the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Yemen, killed two crew members on Wednesday. It was the Iranian terror proxy’s first deadly attack since it joined the war against Israel in support of the Hamas terrorist group in the Gaza Strip, CNN reported, citing US officials.

At least six other sailors were wounded aboard the M/V True Confidence, identified by the outlet as a Barbados-flagged, Liberian-owned bulk carrier, one of the officials said. The sinking ship was abandoned, and coalition forces arrived in the area to assess the situation.

The Houthis launched their attack around 11:30 a.m. Sana’a time, or around 3:30 a.m. on the East Coast in the United States, per CNN.

“At least two innocent sailors have died. This was the sad but inevitable consequence of the Houthis recklessly firing missiles at international shipping,” wrote the British embassy in Sana’a, the Yemeni capital. “They must stop.”

Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder was asked about the attack during the Pentagon’s press briefing on Tuesday. Does the US Department of Defense “assess that what they are doing in the region is enough?” a reporter asked. “Is there a need in the Pentagon’s assessment for additional resources in the region to try to safeguard ships?”

“We have a significant amount of capability already in the region, but it’s not just about the US,” Ryder said. “We will continue to work with allies and partners. And as we continue to need more, we’ll certainly work with them, and certainly are willing to take any and all helpers on that front.”

Matthew Miller, the US State Department spokesman, called the deaths “sadly inevitable” during the department’s press briefing on Wednesday.

“The Houthis have continued to launch these reckless attacks with no regard for the well-being of innocent civilians who are transiting through the Red Sea, and now they have unfortunately and tragically killed innocent civilians,” Miller said.

Also on Wednesday, Washington sanctioned two ship owners and two vessels tied to Sa’id al-Jamal, an “Iran-based, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force-backed Houthi financial facilitator.”

“Revenue generated through al-Jamal’s network enables Houthi militant efforts, including ongoing attacks on international maritime commerce in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden,” Miller stated.

“The consequences of these attacks are felt far beyond the region, and the United States will continue to use all available measures to disrupt the funding streams that enable these destabilizing activities,” Miller said.


Targeting Israel

Since mid-November, the Houthis have engaged in multiple anti-ship drone and missile attacks, in addition to numerous acts of piracy against commercial and military vessels.

Yahya Saree, a “military” spokesperson for the Houthis, threatened on Dec. 9 that the movement would “prevent the passage of ships heading to the Zionist entity of any nationality.”

The Houthis took responsibility for Wednesday’s attack, with Saree confirming the movement launched several anti-ship missiles, which he said caused a fire. Saree claimed that the attack on the vessel was launched after the crew ignored multiple warnings.

It was not immediately clear whether the M/V True Confidence was headed for Israel or linked to the Jewish state in any way.

Earlier on Wednesday, US Central Command said that a Navy destroyer in the Red Sea shot down several suicide drones and an anti-ship ballistic missile fired towards it by the Houthis from Yemen.

The attack apparently targeted the USS Carney, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer that has been leading efforts to thwart Houthi aggression against commercial vessels transiting the Red Sea.

There were no injuries or damage to the ship, CENTCOM stated, noting that the attack posed an “imminent threat to merchant vessels and to the US Navy ships in the region.”

In response to the attack, US forces “destroyed three anti-ship missiles and three unmanned surface vessels in self-defense,” CENTCOM stated. The targets were located in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.

In December, the United States launched a multinational force to counter the maritime threat posed by the Houthis, who have repeatedly targeted vessels passing through the crucial Bab el-Mandeb strait.

The Israeli Navy also bolstered its presence in the Red Sea in response to the attacks.

Since Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre, Houthis have fired several missiles and drones against the Jewish state that were thwarted by Israeli, US or Saudi forces or missed their targets.

The Houthi’s official slogan is “Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse the Jews, Victory to Islam.”


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