US Military Destroy Houthi Boats in Red Sea after Attempted Hijack

The US Navy has taken action in the Red Sea to thwart an attempted hijack of the Singapore-flagged Maersk Hangzhou by Houthi rebels. This incident escalates in the ongoing conflict in the region, where Houthi forces have been targeting commercial vessels since November.

Red Sea after Attempted Hijack

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On the morning of December 31, 2023, four small boats operated by Houthi forces in Yemen approached the Maersk Hangzhou, a container ship registered in Singapore and owned by a Danish firm.

The situation escalated when the Houthi boats fired upon the Maersk Hangzhou and attempted to board the vessel, coming within a mere 20 meters of the ship.

Helicopters from nearby US warships, including the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier and USS Gravely destroyer, engaged the Houthi boats.

The US forces faced gunfire from the Houthi vessels, making them to return fire in self-defense. As a result, three of the four Houthi boats were sunk, and the crews were neutralized. The fourth boat fled the area.

The rebels have utilized a combination of drones and ballistic missiles, targeting vessels passing through the crucial shipping lane.

Countries, including the US and its allies, launched Operation Prosperity Guardian to safeguard shipping in the region.

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The rise in Houthi attacks has forced major shipping companies, such as Maersk, to divert their vessels away from the Red Sea.

This redirection impacts global shipping routes, prompting ships to take longer and costlier routes around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope.

The Red Sea is a conduit for oil and liquefied natural gas shipments from the Middle East to Europe and Asia.

The Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, have claimed that their attacks are directed at vessels linked to Israel, citing their opposition to the Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip.

The rebels argue that their actions aim to counter Israeli attacks on Palestinians. The Houthi attacks have targeted commercial ships but have also included attempts to strike Israel with drones.

US Navy Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, the top commander of US naval forces in the Middle East, expressed concern over the Houthi rebels’ continued reckless attacks.

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Despite the establishment of Operation Prosperity Guardian, which involves an international coalition to counter the Houthi threat, the rebels have persisted in their attack on commercial ships.

Vice Admiral Cooper showed that, until the recent incident, over 1,200 commercial ships had passed through the Red Sea without incident.

The Houthi rebels have shown no signs of desisting from their attacks, questions about the effectiveness of the newly formed maritime taskforce.

Operation Prosperity Guardian was initiated to protect vessels in the Red Sea and ensure the free flow of maritime traffic. Countries, including the UK, has joined the effort to counter the Houthi threat.

However, the recent attacks on the Maersk Hangzhou underline the challenges faced by naval forces in securing this vital waterway.

UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron asserted that Iran shares responsibility for preventing these attacks, pointing to Iran’s longstanding support for the Houthi rebels.

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