Yemeni Naval Forces conducted precision strikes on the American cargo vessel MV Star Iris in the Red Sea, raising concerns about escalating tensions in the region.
Yahya Sare'e, the spokesperson for the Yemeni Armed Forces, confirmed on Monday that the strikes were accurate and direct, hitting their target precisely. Sare'e justified the attack as a response to perceived ongoing U.S.-British aggression against Yemen, emphasizing the commitment to preventing Israeli navigation in the Red and Arab Seas.
The United States stated that the MV Star Iris was headed to Iran. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) reported on Tuesday that the vessel was transiting through the Red Sea to reach the port city of Bandar Imam Khomeini in southern Iran, carrying a shipment of corn from Brazil. The Star Iris was identified as a "Greek-owned, Marshall Islands-flagged cargo vessel."
The Iran-linked Houthis had identified the vessel as U.S.-linked on Monday, confirming the accurate and direct strikes while it traveled off Yemen. The armed group claimed to target ships linked to Israel, the U.S., or the United Kingdom in the Red Sea, disrupting the key trade route between Europe and Asia in solidarity with Palestinians and protesting Israel's actions in Gaza.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) confirmed the attack, noting the crew's safety and the vessel proceeding to the next port of call.
Houthis have carried out more than 30 attacks against Red Sea shipping between mid-November and February 3. The latest Houthi attack occurred less than two days after the U.S. military's "self-defense strikes" on unmanned surface vessels and anti-ship cruise missiles near Yemen. In response, U.S. and British forces have targeted Houthi sites in Yemen, with the most recent attacks on February 3 against 36 Houthi targets across 13 locations.
How are Houthi rebels dodging Western air defenses?
U.S., British, and French warships in the Red Sea all have the capability to shoot down Houthi missiles and drones, but it is becoming expensive, and they can't be sure to hit every single one, especially if the Houthis decide to launch a "swarm" attack—launching multiple drones and missiles at once, similar to what Russia has been doing in Ukraine.
Yemen may be the poorest Arab nation, but the Houthis have a large stockpile of missiles and drones. Houthi-affiliated media have previously reported that despite the presence of U.S. warships equipped with advanced defense systems, Israeli ships lack protective cover.
The Houthis, over 1,000 km away, are launching missiles towards Israel by altering paths and challenging coalition's detection systems. Tel Aviv is unable to confront the distant threat, fearing an international crisis if drawn into a war with Yemen. The geographical distance also poses a risk of disrupting maritime routes, reports said.