On Monday, two crewmembers of a Saudi frigate were killed in a suicide attack by Houthi rebels near Hudaydah, on the Red Sea.
"A Saudi frigate came under a terrorist attack by three suicide boats belonging to the Houthi militias while on patrol west of the port of Hudaydah," the Saudi-led coalition said in a statement. "The Saudi ship dealt with the boats as necessary. However, one of the boats collided with the rear of the vessel, resulting in the explosion of the boat and a fire at the rear of the ship . . . Two members of the ship crew fell as martyrs and three others were injured." The coalition did not identify the frigate.
Houthi media outlets contested this account and said that the Saudi vessel had been hit by a guided missile. The group has not previously used suicide attacks, which are generally a hallmark of Sunni terrorist organizations like al Qaeda and Islamic State.
In October, Houthi forces used a guided missile to destroy a former U.S. Navy vessel, the HSV-2 Swift. In a subsequent attack on the American destroyer USS Mason, Houthi militants launched two missiles, neither of which found their target. The Navy retaliated with Tomahawk cruise missile strikes, destroying radar installations that had been active during the previous attacks.
Fox News reported Tuesday that American defense officials believe that the strike on the Saudi frigate may also have been meant for a U.S. vessel. A video of Monday’s attack shown by Houthi media includes audio of a Yemeni fighter chanting "death to America, death to Israel."
The Saudi coalition warned in a statement Monday that the attack on the frigate could "affect the international navigation and the flow of humanitarian and medical assistance to the port [of Hudaydah].” Saudi naval forces have blockaded Hudaydah and other Houthi-controlled ports, and human rights groups say that this is creating a food shortage affecting millions of Yemeni citizens.