Saudi Forces Thwart Bomb Boat Attack in Red Sea
The Saudi coalition backing the Yemeni government in Yemen's civil war announced Wednesday that it had thwarted an attempted bomb-boat attack on a tanker off Hodeidah.
A spokesman told media that over the weekend, coalition forces destroyed a boat laden with explosives that was headed for an unnamed tanker. He suggested that the attack was evidence that militants in Hodeidah pose a threat to merchant shipping in the Red Sea and at the chokepoint at its southern end, the Strait of Bab al-Mandeb. In addition, he said that militia members attempted to target a Saudi jet over the weekend using "advanced weaponry."
The announcement came just one day after Yemen's Houthi rebel group said that it would block Red Sea shipping lanes if the Saudi-led coalition continued its advance towards the port of Hodeidah, which handles a majority of Yemeni imports and is a key landing point for aid shipments. “The battleships and oil tankers of the aggression and their movements will not be safe from the fire of Yemeni naval forces," the group said in a statement carried by its official news site.
Houthi forces have demonstrated the ability to attack large ships before. An anti-ship missile fired by Houthi forces destroyed the ex-U.S. Navy transport HSV-2 Swift in October 2016; in a subsequent attack, the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Mason came under fire, but she was not harmed. American forces retaliated with Tomahawk missile strikes on radar installations on shore. The rebel forces have also deployed inventive tactics: a drone boat laden with explosives struck and damaged a Saudi warship off Hodeidah in January 2017, and improvised naval mines planted near the port of Mokha damaged a Yemeni coast guard vessel in May 2017. American defense analysts believe that Houthi forces are receiving technical and material assistance from Iran, which has enhanced the militants' capabilities.
Most of the attacks have targeted naval vessels, but merchant shipping does not appear to be exempt. Last June, Saudi forces said that a small boat fired three rocket-propelled grenades at a merchant tanker in the Strait of Bab al-Mandeb. The vessel and her crew escaped unharmed.