EUNAVFOR: Houthi Attacks on Shipping May Continue

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Damage to the Ince Inebolu

By MarEx 2018-05-23 16:58:00

On Wednesday, the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates announced that they have destroyed two boats belonging to Houthi rebels in the Red Sea. The UAE asserted that the boats were threatening oil tankers. Two other small vessels managed to escape. 

The action followed several weeks after a missile attack on the bulker Ince Inebolu off Hodeidah, Yemen. That strike damaged a topside ballast tank above the waterline, and the Inebolu safely navigated to the port of Gizan for evaluation and repairs. 

On Wednesday, EUNAVFOR intelligence and security chief Maj. Tom Mobbs told Reuters that Houthi rebels based on shore or on land were "almost certainly" responsible for that attack, according to the latest assessment. "That is the natural speculation," he said.  

He clarified that the strike on the Inebolu was likely due to a case of mistaken identity, and she was unlikely to have been deliberately targeted. Previous Houthi attacks have focused on Saudi-allied shipping, and the rebels have asserted that the strikes are intended to harm the Saudi military coalition backing the Yemeni government in Yemen's civil war. Houthi forces have been losing ground in the campaign, especially around the key port city of Hodeidah, which they have held since 2014. Saudi and UAE-backed forces have cut off several Houthi supply lines to Hodeidah over the past month, restricting the flow of ammunition and equipment into the region. 

However, Mobbs warned that shipping in the Red Sea still faces the risk of an attack due to misidentification, even if unintended. Since the Yemen conflict continues unabated, the hazard to merchant shipping will continue, he warned. 

“There are now a wide range of threats to shipping near the Horn of Africa that have been complicated by the conflict and instability in Yemen,” said Phil Belcher, Marine Director of INTERTANKO in a statement issued Wednesday.  “We are advising our members to consider a more comprehensive security assessment to take into account other threats beyond traditional piracy emanating from the regional conflict in Yemen.”