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Yemen’s Houthi rebels launch a missile that strikes an oil tanker in the Red Sea, US military says

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Yemen’s Houthi rebels hit an oil tanker in the Red Sea with a ballistic missile early on Saturday, damaging the Panama-flagged, Greek-owned vessel in their latest assault over the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip, officials said. Though the Houthis did not immediately claim the assault, it comes as they claimed to have shot down another US military’s MQ-9 Reaper drone over Yemen and have launched other attacks on shipping, disrupting trade on a key maritime route leading to the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea.

The attack around 1 a.m. struck the oil tanker Wind, which recently docked in Russia and was bound for China, the US military’s Central Command said. Both China and Russia maintain ties over military equipment and oil to Iran, the Houthis’ main benefactor.

The missile strike “caused flooding which resulted in the of loss propulsion and steering”, Central Command said on the social platform X.

“The crew of M/T Wind was able to restore propulsion and steering, and no casualties were reported. M/T Wind resumed its course under its own power.”

The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations centre and the private security firm Ambrey similarly acknowledged the attack earlier Saturday. Ambrey said it caused a fire aboard the Wind.

It can take the Houthis hours – or even days – to claim their attacks. The Houthis have launched attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, demanding Israel ends the war in Gaza, which has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians there. The war began after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people and taking some 250 others hostage. The Houthis have launched more than 50 attacks on shipping, seized one vessel and sunk another since November, according to the US Maritime Administration.

Houthi attacks have dropped in recent weeks as the rebels have been targeted by a US-led airstrike campaign in Yemen. Shipping through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden still remains low because of the threat, however.

The Houthis claimed that they shot down the Reaper on Thursday with a surface-to-air missile. They described the drone as “carrying out hostile actions” in Yemen’s Marib province, which remains held by allies of Yemen’s exiled, internationally recognised government.

Since the Houthis seized the country’s north and its capital, Sanaa, in 2014, the US military has previously lost at least five drones to the rebels.

Reapers, which cost around USD 30 million apiece, can fly at altitudes up to 50,000 feet and have an endurance of up to 24 hours before needing to land.

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