Houthi Rebels claim targeting Israeli ships in Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, escalating tensions

The Iran-backed Houthis have escalated attacks on commercial shipping in vital maritime routes in recent months, which they say is retaliation for Israel’s military offensive on Gaza last year.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels said on Thursday they targeted two ships they described as Israeli with ballistic missiles and explosive-laden drones in the Gulf of Aden. A Houthi military spokesperson stated the strikes on the vessels MSC DEGO and MSC GINA were accurate, without providing further details.

The rebels also claimed to hit a third ship, the MSC VITTORIA, with attacks in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.

There was no immediate confirmation from Israeli officials or independent sources regarding any vessels being hit or sustaining damage. The Iran-backed Houthis have escalated attacks on commercial shipping in vital maritime routes in recent months, which they say is retaliation for Israel’s military offensive on Gaza last year.

The Houthi spokesperson warned they are following developments closely and will not hesitate to escalate military operations. The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen condemned the latest claims as threats to freedom of navigation and global trade. It accused the rebels of hostage-taking of vessels.

Escalating assaults on civilian shipping could further exacerbate Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, already one of the world’s worst. The unpredictable rebel attacks have prompted some international ships to avoid the region altogether. Shipping industry experts have repeatedly raised concerns over the risks posed by the Houthis to commercial maritime traffic.

The Houthis overran the Yemeni capital Sanaa in 2014, prompting the Saudi-led military intervention to try to restore the internationally recognized government. The stalemated conflict has killed tens of thousands and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine after years of devastating war.