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Yemen’s Houthis ramp up attacks on commercial shipping in Red Sea

Yemen’s Houthi armed group on Monday claimed responsibility for attacking a U.S. ship in the Gulf of Aden, a serious escalation of attacks in the crucial maritime region.

The strike, which involved the firing of “several missiles,” was “accurate and direct,” Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said in a statement on the Houthi-run Al-Masirah TV.

The Houthi group now “considers all American and British ships and warships participating in the aggression against our country as hostile targets” Sarea said.

Meanwhile, the group’s chief negotiator, Mohammed Abdul Salam, said that the group’s attacks on ships heading to Israel would continue, despite recent U.S.-led strikes targeting its sites, according to Al-Masirah TV.

He added that the Houthis are communicating with the international community to clarify their position that “navigation is safe for all ships except those heading to Israel.” He also said his group did not seek more conflict and accused the U.S. and Britain of making the Red Sea more dangerous.

Earlier on Monday, the U.S. Central Command said in a statement that the Marshall Islands-flagged container ship Gibraltar Eagle, owned and operated by a U.S. shipping company, was hit by a Houthi missile at 4 pm local time (1300 GMT).

The statement added that no crew was injured on the ship, which sustained minor damage and continued its voyage following the attack.

A Yemeni government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the internationally-recognized government also detected missiles fired by the Houthis and said some of them missed their targets and landed in southern Yemen’s mountains.

The failed launches caused panic among residents, but no one was hurt, the official said.

Hours after the missile strikes on shipping, residents reported powerful explosions rocking Yemen’s western port city of Hodeidah, which is under Houthi control.

A local official told Xinhua on condition of anonymity that an explosion hit Hodeidah International Airport on Monday, which coincided with the flight of military aircraft over the city’s airspace.

There has been no official claim of responsibility or confirmation from either side so far regarding the reported explosions in Hodeidah.

Also on Monday, Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council (PLC), the executive body of Yemen’s internationally-recognized government, called on the international community to provide greater support to the Yemeni government to expand its control across all Yemeni territory.

PLC Chairman Rashad Al-Alimi also condemned ongoing Houthi attacks against commercial ships transiting the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen as well as the group’s “refusal to commit to a peaceful resolution of the conflict.”

The United Nations has warned that the escalating violence threatens to undermine the already fragile peace efforts. Meanwhile, the suffering of millions of Yemeni civilians worsens as the country’s economy is teetering on the brink of collapse.

Yemen has been embroiled in a devastating civil war since 2014, with the Houthis fighting against the internationally-recognized Yemeni government. The Saudi Arabia-led coalition intervened in the conflict in support of the Yemeni government in 2015.

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Famagusta Gazette