The US military confirmed that Yemen's Houthi rebels, supported by Iran, launched two anti-ship ballistic missiles on Tuesday (2 January) evening targeting merchant vessels navigating in the Red Sea, close to the strategically important Bab el-Mandeb Strait.
Explosions near a cargo ship sailing between the shores of Eritrea and Yemen were initially reported by the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), Indian Express reported.
The US Central Command subsequently reported that Houthi rebels launched two anti-ship ballistic missiles into the southern Red Sea, an area populated by several commercial vessels. However, no reports of any damage have been received.
CERTCOM announced on X that the illegal actions endangered the lives of dozens of innocent mariners and continue to disrupt the free flow of international commerce. They highlighted this as the 24th assault on commercial vessels in the region since 19 November.
The UN Security Council is scheduled to convene a meeting on Wednesday, focusing on the preservation of global peace and security. French diplomats have indicated that this meeting will tackle the matter of Houthi assaults in the Red Sea.
Over the past few weeks, commercial vessels traversing the Red Sea and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which links the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, have been under a barrage of drone and missile attacks by the Houthi rebels.
They declare their attacks are in unity with the Palestinians in Gaza, where Israel is engaged in conflict with Hamas militants.
The Houthis, who dominate Sanaa, Yemen's capital, and a significant portion of the country's Red Sea coast, have issued a warning that they will aim at vessels in the Red Sea associated with Israel. Numerous missiles and drones have been intercepted and neutralised by American, French, and British naval vessels monitoring the region.
The Pentagon reports that the Houthis have initiated numerous drone and missile assaults, with about a dozen merchant vessels being their targets.
The threats pose a risk to a transportation route responsible for as much as 12 per cent of worldwide trade, leading the United States to establish a multinational naval task force to safeguard shipping in the Red Sea.
Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.
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