Last updated: 04.12.2023, 00:35
The naval destroyer "USS Carney" responded to distress calls from the freighters and provided assistance. © Petty Officer 3rd Class Bill Dod/US Navy/AP/dpa
Since the beginning of the Gaza war, there have been concerns about an escalation of the conflict in the Middle East. One of the scenes of growing tensions is the Red Sea. There are several incidents there.
Sanaa/Washington - The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels are intensifying their attacks on merchant ships in the Red Sea. The rebels from Yemen again attacked several freighters in the sea area.
A U.S. Navy destroyer came to the aid of the ships and shot down several drones. The U.S. military said it was still unclear whether the destroyer "USS Carney" itself had been the target of one of the attempted drone attacks. The Houthis themselves claimed attacks on two ships and once again threatened further attacks on Israeli freighters.
One of the world's most important shipping lanes runs past the Yemeni coast to and from the Suez Canal in Egypt. This canal connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea, providing the shortest connection by sea from Asia to Europe. About ten percent of all world trade passes through the Red Sea.
The threat of the Houthis
Yemen's Houthi rebels had previously threatened to attack "all ships" linked to Israel in response to Israel's war against Islamist Hamas in the Gaza Strip. All ships flying the flag of Israel, owned by Israeli companies or operated by Israeli companies are targeted, Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sari said. He repeated that threat on Sunday, saying the rebels had attacked two Israeli ships in the Bab al-Mandab strait with a rocket and a drone. These are the ships "Unity Explorer" and "Number 9".
Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari stressed that the two ships had no connection to the State of Israel. One of the ships had been significantly damaged and was in distress. It is in danger of sinking.
The series of attacks
The U.S. military's regional command, Centcom, said there had been four attacks on three different merchant ships sailing in the Red Sea on Sunday. The naval destroyer "USS Carney" patrolling there responded to distress calls from the freighters and provided assistance.
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The ship "Unity Exlorer", which sails under the flag of the Bahamas and is British-owned, was the target of attacks twice. Both times the missiles were fired from areas controlled by the Houthi rebels in Yemen. One rocket landed near the ship, another hit the freighter. There had been slight damage.
The U.S. military said another missile from Houthi territory hit the Panamanian-flagged freighter Number 9, which has owners from Bermuda and the United Kingdom. The ship had been damaged. In addition, a ship named "Sophie II", which sails under the flag of Panama, reported a rocket hit. In this case, the Americans did not give details about the origin of the missile.
According to the military, the U.S. destroyer intercepted several drones that had taken off from Houthi areas during the series of attacks - one of which had flown towards the "USS Carney" itself. It is not possible to judge at this point in time whether the naval destroyer was the target. "The U.S. ship was not damaged and there were no casualties," it added.
The fear of escalation
However, the U.S. military lamented: "These attacks pose a direct threat to international trade and maritime security." They endangered the lives of international crews. "We also have every reason to believe that while these attacks are being carried out by the Houthis in Yemen, they are fully supported by Iran." The U.S. would now discuss all appropriate measures in coordination with international partners.
There have been other incidents of this kind in the Red Sea in recent weeks. The U.S. destroyer "USS Carney" recently shot down several cruise missiles and drones, which, according to U.S. information, were launched by Houthi rebels in Yemen. The rebels also hijacked a cargo ship in mid-November, part of which belongs to a British-Israeli businessman. The Houthis seized large parts of Yemen in 2014 and now control large areas in the north, including the capital Sanaa.
Since the beginning of the Gaza war, attacks by Iran-affiliated groups on U.S. forces in the Middle East have increased. This is fuelling fears of an even greater escalation in the region. Dpa