Houthi Assault on Cargo Ship in Red Sea Results in 29km Oil Spill

Houthi Assault on Cargo Ship in Red Sea Results in 29km Oil Spill

The US military has disclosed that an assault by Yemeni Houthi rebels on a Belize-flagged vessel earlier this month caused an 18-mile (29-km) oil slick. The incident occurred on Saturday, prompting concerns over potential spillage from the ship’s fertilizer cargo. The targeted vessel, Rubymar, a British-registered cargo ship operated by a Lebanese company, was attacked on Feb 18 while traversing the Bab el-Mandeb Strait linking the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, according to US Central Command.

The missile strike compelled the crew to abandon the vessel, which was en route to Bulgaria from Khorfakkan in the United Arab Emirates with over 41,000 tons of fertilizer, as stated by CENTCOM. The ship sustained significant damage, resulting in the oil slick, with CENTCOM cautioning about the possibility of the fertilizer cargo leaking into the Red Sea, exacerbating the environmental ramifications.

The statement from CENTCOM criticized the Houthis for their disregard of the regional consequences of their indiscriminate attacks, posing threats to the fishing industry, coastal communities, and food supply imports. Satellite images from Planet Labs PBC, cited by The Associated Press, revealed the vessel leaking oil in the Red Sea.

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Yemen’s internationally recognized government issued a plea on Saturday for swift action from other nations and maritime protection organizations to address the oil spill and prevent a major environmental catastrophe. According to the government, based in the southern city of Aden, the vessel is headed towards the Hanish Islands, a Yemeni archipelago in the southern Red Sea.

In a separate development, US Central Command announced that the USS Mason intercepted an anti-ship ballistic missile launched on Saturday evening from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen towards the Gulf of Aden. The missile was likely aimed at the MV Torm Thor, a US-flagged tanker carrying chemical and oil cargo, according to CENTCOM. No casualties or damage were reported from either the warship or the tanker.

Additionally, CENTCOM reported launching attacks on Houthi-held areas in Yemen on Friday, destroying seven mobile anti-ship cruise missiles that were poised for launch towards the Red Sea. Describing the strikes as self-defense, CENTCOM emphasized the imminent threat these missiles posed to merchant vessels and US Navy ships in the region. Further details were not provided. However, Houthi-affiliated media outlets reported US and UK strikes on the Durayhimi district in the Red Sea province of Hodeida.

The US military has responded with consecutive strikes on Houthi-held territories within Yemen in recent weeks, retaliating against the Houthis’ assaults on maritime passages in the Red Sea.

Since November, rebel forces have persistently aimed at vessels in the Red Sea and adjacent waters. They justify their actions citing the Israel-Hamas conflict. However, their targets often lack clear connections to Israel, jeopardizing trade routes essential for commerce between Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.

Among the attacked vessels was at least one transporting goods bound for Iran, the primary supporter of the Houthi insurgents.

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