Yemen rebels claim latest Red Sea vessel strike

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - SANAA, Feb 17 ― Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels today claimed an attack a day earlier on an oil tanker in the Red Sea, the latest in a series of strikes which have led to retaliation by Britain and the United States.

Rebel attacks have also disrupted world trade through the vital waterway.

Houthi naval forces “carried out an operation targeting the British oil tanker Pollux in the Red Sea” with missiles, rebel spokesman Yahya Saree said in a statement.

He did not say how the rebels had determined a “British” connection with the ship, which a Greek shipping database says is operated by Sea Trade Marine S.A., of Athens.

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The State Department in Washington on Friday said a missile fired from Yemen “struck the port side of the India-bound, Panamanian-flagged MT Pollux, which was carrying crude oil.”

The strike came on the same day that Washington’s redesignation of the Houthis as “terrorist” came into force.

A State Department spokesperson said the vessel was able to continue on its voyage.

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The tanker “sustained minor damage” in the missile strike northwest of Yemen’s port of Mokha, security firm Ambrey said.

The latest attack came after the US military earlier on Friday said it conducted strikes “against three mobile anti-ship cruise missiles in Huthi-controlled areas of Yemen that were prepared to launch against ships in the Red Sea”.

In December the United States announced a maritime security initiative, Operation Prosperity Guardian, to protect vessel traffic in the area.

Repeated strikes on Huthi targets by the United States, as well as Britain, have failed to halt the rebel attacks. They are targeting vessels they deem to be Israeli-linked during Israel’s war with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

The rebels have also vowed “response and punishment” after the US and British strikes, and say they are acting in solidarity with “the Palestinian people.”

At war with Yemen’s internationally-recognised government since 2014, the Houthis control the capital Sanaa and large parts of the country’s northwest.

European Union foreign ministers will meet Monday in Brussels to formally launch a naval mission to help protect international shipping in the Red Sea against Houthi attacks, officials said yesterday. ― AFP

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