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Houthi Forces Continue Ballistic Missile and Drone Attacks

Ballistic missiles
Courtesy Houthi Military Media

Published Mar 17, 2024 8:37 PM by The Maritime Executive

Over the weekend, Yemen's Houthi rebels continued to attack merchant ships in the Red Sea, despite a concerted effort by U.S. forces to disrupt and eliminate the group's capabilities on the ground. 

On Friday, the crew of a merchant ship reported an attack at a position about 65 nautical miles west of Al Hudaydah, Yemen. The vessel's master told UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) that his crew witnessed an explosion off the starboard beam. No damage or injuries were reported, and the ship carried on towards its next port of call. The vessel has been identified as the tanker Pacific 01, and early reports suggested that it had been hit; these initial assessments have since been withdrawn. 

Early Sunday morning, UKMTO received a report of another incident at a position about 85 nautical miles to the east of the port of Aden. The master reported an explosion close to the vessel, but no damage or injuries were reported.

In addition, Houthi units launched two attack drones towards the Red Sea on Saturday. U.S. military forces destroyed one, and the other likely crashed into the water. Neither made it to a target. 

U.S. forces were also actively engaged in suppressing Houthi activity on the ground. On Saturday night, from 2100-2230 hours, U.S. Central Command destroyed five unmanned drone boats and one aerial drone in Houthi-controlled areas. 

Heightened inspections

Houthi forces are widely believed to receive training and weaponry from Tehran, though the Iranian government denies it. The UK and the US have called on the UN Security Council to implement a United Nations-backed cargo inspection campaign to block the group's supply of missile and drone components from Iranian paramilitary forces.

The existing UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM) has been in place at the Houthi-controlled port of Hodeidah since 2016, and it was created to keep advanced weapons out of the group's hands; however, Iranian ships regularly circumvent the inspections, according to UK deputy ambassador James Kariuki. 

"All ships entering Hodeidah must comply and report to Unvim for inspection. We recommit our support to UNVIM, so it has the necessary capacity and funding to ensure Yemenis have access to essential goods while abating the smuggling of illicit arms," said Kariuki at a UN Security Council meeting last week.