Dubai, Dec. 12 (Reuters) – Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis said on Tuesday they carried out a military operation against the Norwegian merchant tanker Strinda in protest against Israel’s bombing of Gaza.
The group targeted the tanker with a rocket after the group refused to respond to all warnings, Houthi military spokesman Yehia Sariya said in a televised statement.
He vowed that the Houthis would continue to block ships bound for Israeli ports until Israel allowed food and medical aid into the Gaza Strip, 1,000 miles from the Houthi seat of power in Sana’a.
The attack on the tanker STRINDA took place about 60 nautical miles (111km) north of the Bab al-Mandab strait, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, at around 2100 GMT, a US official told Reuters. A second U.S. official said Strinta was able to move under its own power in the hours after the attack.
“There were no U.S. vessels in the vicinity at the time of the attack, but (U.S. Navy destroyer) USS MASON responded to M/T STRINDA’s mayday call and is currently rendering assistance,” said the U.S. military’s Central Command, which oversees the U.S. forces in the Middle East, according to a statement posted on social media platform X.
The attack caused fire and damage but no casualties, the US military said in a statement.
A Houthi spokesman said it had stopped several ships in recent days, acting in support of the Palestinians.
The Houthis have been embroiled in the Israel-Hamas conflict — which has spread across the Middle East since Oct. 7 — attacking ships along critical shipping lanes and firing drones and missiles at Israel.
On Saturday, the Houthis said they would target all ships bound for Israel, regardless of their nationality, and warned international shipping companies against handling Israeli ports.
The chemical tanker was flagged to Norway, whose Norwegian owner Movinkel Chemical Tankers and manager Hansa Tankers could not immediately be reached for comment outside office hours.
The STRINDA was bound for Venice, Italy after loading vegetable oil and biofuels in Malaysia, data from ship tracking firm Kpler showed.
It was not immediately clear whether Strinta had any ties to Israel.
The group that rules much of Yemen has vowed that its attacks are a show of support for the Palestinians and will continue until Israel halts its offensive in the Gaza Strip – more than 1,000 miles from the Houthi seat of power in Sana’a.
The Houthis are one of several groups in an Iran-aligned “axis of resistance” that has been targeting Israeli and US targets since Palestinian ally Hamas attacked Israel.
In the first week of December, three merchant ships were attacked in international waters, prompting a US Navy destroyer to intervene.
The Houthis last month also seized a British-owned cargo ship linked to an Israeli company.
The US and Britain have condemned the attacks on the shipping, blaming Iran’s role in supporting the Houthis. Tehran says its allies make their decisions independently.
Saudi Arabia has asked the US to show restraint in retaliating against the attacks.
Report by Bill Stewart; Additional reporting by Trixie Yap and Florence Tan; Editing by Tom Hogue, Jerry Doyle and Lincoln Feist and Michael Giorgi
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Bill Stewart has reported from more than 60 countries, including Afghanistan, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, China and South Sudan. An award-winning Washington-based national security correspondent, Bill has appeared on NPR, PBS NewsHour, Fox News and other programs and moderated national security events, including the Reagan National Security Forum and the German Marshall Fund. He is the Edwin M. for Diplomatic Correspondence. Hood Award and Joe Galloway Award recipient.