US says Houthis launched missiles at tanker ship but no damage caused

WASHINGTON – The Iran-backed Houthi militia launched two anti-ship ballistic missiles at a US-owned tanker ship late on Jan 18 that hit the water near the vessel but caused no injuries or damage, the US military said.

The incident, the latest amid growing tensions in the Red Sea that have disrupted global trade and raised fears of supply bottlenecks, took place around 9 pm Yemen time (1800 GMT), according to a US Central Command post on X, formerly called Twitter.

The Houthis, who control most of Yemen, earlier on Jan 18 claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they targeted the ship Chem Ranger with naval missiles that caused “direct hits”.

Monitoring service TankerTrackers.com said on social media that the “fairly small chemical tanker left the Red Sea port of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for Kuwait, but her AIS (automatic identification system) went offline on (Tuesday) before proceeding south past Yemen.”

Attacks by the Iran-allied Houthi militia on ships in and around the Red Sea for several weeks have slowed trade between Asia and Europe and alarmed major powers in an escalation of the war in Gaza.

The Houthis say their attacks are in solidarity with Palestinians under attack from Israel in Gaza.

Since last week, the United States has launched strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen, and this week returned the militia to a list of “terrorist” groups.

US President Joe Biden said on Jan 18 that air strikes would continue even as he acknowledged they may not be halting the Houthi attacks.

“Are they stopping the Houthis? No. Are they gonna continue? Yes,” Mr Biden told reporters aboard Air Force One.

The confrontation risks an expansion of the conflict beyond Hamas-governed Gaza, where the local health ministry says over 24,000 people – or more than 1 per cent of Gaza’s 2.3 million population – have been killed in Israel’s assault.

Israel launched its offensive following Oct 7 attacks on by the Palestinian Islamist group, which Israeli officials say killed 1,200 people. REUTERS

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