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Crew Abandons Ship in Red Sea After Houthi Missile Strikes

In a recent development, the escalating attacks by the Houthis off the coast of Yemen have led to the abandonment of a commercial ship in the Red Sea following a Houthi assault. This marks the first instance of such an evacuation since the militant group began threatening trade in the crucial waterway late last year.

According to US Central Command’s announcement on social media platform X, two anti-ship ballistic missiles damaged the Belize-flagged vessel, Rubymar, on Sunday evening local time. Promptly responding to the distress call, a coalition warship and another merchant ship facilitated the evacuation of the Rubymar’s crew to a nearby port.

Since November, the Houthis have intensified their attacks on the merchant fleet in the region using missiles and drone strikes. The group, backed by Iran, claims to be targeting ships with affiliations to Israel, the US, and the UK, in response to the conflict in Gaza and western airstrikes aimed at curbing their assaults.

The Rubymar, a relatively small cargo ship, is registered to an owner based in Southampton, England, as per the Equasis international maritime database.

A Houthi spokesperson asserted that an attack on an unidentified British ship led to its “complete sinking,” although this claim remains unverified independently.

Centcom’s statement did not confirm whether the Rubymar had sunk, and the vessel’s owner did not respond to earlier inquiries. The UK Maritime Trade Operations also had no further updates on the incident.

An official from GMZ Ship Management Co. in Lebanon reported that the vessel sustained attacks in the engine room and the ship’s front, with no injuries reported among the crew, who were being transported to Djibouti.

Approximately 12% of global trade, including up to 30% of container traffic, traverses through the Suez Canal each year. However, in light of the attacks, a significant portion of oil and gas carriers, bulk commodity ships, and container vessels are now opting for longer routes around Africa, leading to increased voyage times and shipping costs worldwide.

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Additionally, another ship reported two nearby explosions on Monday, accompanied by evidence of shrapnel and damage to its paintwork. Despite the incident, the vessel continued its journey to its next port of call. The ship in question was described as a Greece-flagged bulk commodity carrier by maritime intelligence company Ambrey.

The Houthis claimed to have targeted two other vessels in their statement, although specific details could not be immediately verified.

In response to these threats, the European Union initiated a defensive naval operation aimed at safeguarding commercial vessels from Houthi attacks. Commanded by Greece, the mission will provide protection to ships navigating from the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden to the Persian Gulf.

Over the weekend, the US conducted five self-defense strikes against the Houthis, including one targeting an underwater vessel. Central Command noted that this was the first observed deployment of subsea attack capability since the onset of the attacks.

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