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Houthis Launch New Round of Attacks on Merchant Ships

French escort in Red Sea
France reported it downed a drone last week while the U.S. and Italy downed attacks yesterday (EUNAVFOR Aspides)

Published May 7, 2024 12:55 PM by The Maritime Executive

 

The Houthi rebels in Yemen conducted a new series of launches according to reports from the military forces in the Red Sea. The latest action appeared to come hours after the news of Israel’s actions around the southern Gaza city of Rafah and following the threats by the Houthi to expand their attacks on commercial shipping in response to such an action.

The master of an unidentified merchant ship reported two explosions in “closet proximity” to his vessel this morning, May 7. According to the UK Maritime Trade Organizations, the vessel was 82 nautical miles south of Aden, Yemen. The position would place the vessel close to Djibouti at the southern end of the Red Sea. The vessel and its crew were reported safe.

Yesterday morning, May 6, U.S. Central Command also reported its first engagement with the Houthi in four days. U.S. forces successfully engaged and destroyed one uncrewed aerial system (UAS) launched by Houthi over the Red Sea on Monday morning. Last week, on May 2, the U.S. reported it destroyed three uncrewed aerial systems (UAS). There had previously been several engagements over a series of days at the end of April after a previous pause of nearly two weeks.

The EU force, Operation Aspides, also reported an engagement on May 6. The Italian frigate Fasan, which only joined the effort at the end of April, reported its second engagement in a week. Yesterday the warship was protecting an unnamed merchant ship in the Gulf of Aden when they identified a Houthi-launched drone in the area. The Fasan shot down one UAV.

The French Navy also reported that it shot down a drone on May 4. The incident also came while it was protecting merchant ships in the Red Sea.

The Houthi said last week that they would extend their attacks and use their expanded reach to threaten shipping if Israel moved against Rafah. In response, shipping companies including Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd reported that they were increasing their diversions.

The international force is also reporting a rotation of assets in the region. After Italy replaced its frigate with another at the end of April, Aspides is reporting the Belgian Navy ship, Louise-Marie, a Karel Doorman-class frigate, joined its operations. At the same time, the U.S. Navy reported the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Carney had headed into the Atlantic at the end of April. It had been heavily involved with several takedowns as well as reportedly targeted by the Houthi after the defensive mission began in the Red Sea. The U.S. also reportedly moved the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower back into the Red Sea after the aircraft carrier accompanied by the USS Gravely briefly went to the Mediterranean and made a visit to Crete.