One of the attacked ship

Houthis attack two commercial ships in Red Sea


Sun, 03-12-2023 06:49 PM, Aden

Aden (South24)

Two commercial vessels and a US warship, traveling near the Bab al-Mandeb Strait in the Red Sea, were attacked by attackers based in Yemen today, further escalating tensions in the Red Sea related to the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict. 

The multi-staged incident began at 08:10 local time (06:10 UTC) on Sunday, with the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) stating that it had received reports of “Uncrewed Aerial Systems (UAS) including a potential explosion in the vicinity of the Bab el Mandeb originating from the direction of Yemen”, warning vessels in the area to exercise caution.

Athens-based maritime security firm Diaplous later reported that the explosion had been caused by a “loitering drone, which attacked a Bahamas-flagged UK-owned and Israeli-affiliated bulk carrier as it was sailing south”, according to shipping news website Trade Winds

Trade Winds speculated that the ship was the ‘Unity Explorer’, belonging to the British shipping company Unity Maritime. 

The drone explosion caused no injuries or damage, detonating 30 meters above the unidentified ship, though fragments dropped onto the deck as evidenced by photos from Diaplous. The ship reportedly continued to head south, escorted by a coalition warship.

A second explosion took place at 15:21 local time (13:21 UTC) roughly one mile ahead of the newly escorted ship. At 15:35 local time (13:35 UTC), another unidentified vessel in the same vicinity issued a distress call. 

Diaplous later issued a report stating that this ship had been hit, taking damage to its accommodation quarters. 

Diaplous also reported that a second coalition ship, the USS Carney, which was sent to assist the vessel in distress, was attacked.

The Pentagon later confirmed the veracity of Diaplous’s reports, telling the Associated Press: “We’re aware of reports regarding attacks on the USS Carney and commercial vessels in the Red Sea and will provide information as it becomes available”. 

Shrapnel from drone attack in Red Sea. Fragments were found on the deck of a Bahamas-flagged UK-owned and Israeli-affiliated bulk carrier that was attacked by a loitering drone fired from Yemen. Photo: Diaplous Maritime

A US defense official reportedly told Fox News that the “USS Carney shot down at least two Houthi drones over the Red Sea Sunday”. 

Though the Pentagon offered no comment on where it believed the attacks originated from, a US intelligence official, speaking to AP News on condition of anonymity, disclosed that the attack began at around 10:00 in Sanaa, Yemen, continuing for five hours. 

However, the Houthis have since claimed responsibility for the two commercial ship attacks. Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree said, “We targeted two Israeli ships in Bab al-Mandab, the ‘Unity Explorer’ ship and the ‘Number 9’ ship”, seemingly confirming the second vessel’s identity. 

The "Unity Explorer" ship

An announcement made on Israeli Army Radio claimed that the second vessel is chartered to a company partly owned by Israel and does not carry Israeli crew or cargo.

In the Houthi’s statement, they declared: “our forces continue to prevent Israeli ships from navigating the Red and Arab Seas until Israel’s aggression against Gaza stops”.

Today’s attacks are the latest in a series of maritime incidents in Middle Eastern waters directed at Israeli ships, as part of a wider escalation by the Houthis in response to Israel’s war on Palestine. 

The Houthis vowed on November 14th to use drones and missiles to attack any Israeli ships traveling through the Red Sea, for as long as the war in Gaza continues. 

On November 19th, the Galaxy Leader cargo ship, partly owned by an Israeli businessman, was hijacked by the Houthis and remains in their custody today.

Related: Houthis hijack Israeli-owned ship in Red Sea 

The Israeli-owned ship CMA CGM Symi was hit by a suspected Iranian-made kamikaze drone in the Indian Ocean on November 25th.

The following day, the partly Israeli-owned chemical tanker Central Park was boarded by five unknown attackers, who later fled due to US Navy intervention.

South24 Center

YemenMaritimeHouthisDroneVesselsCommercial shipsRed SeaBab al-MandebUS NavyUKMTOIsraelGazaPalestine