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First Attack Following US-Led Strikes Sparks Concerns for Global Shipping

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Amid the ongoing conflict in the Red Sea, Yemen’s Houthi rebels fired an anti-ship cruise missile at a U.S. destroyer on Sunday. This marks the first acknowledged attack by the Houthis since the commencement of U.S.-led strikes on Friday in response to repeated assaults on shipping in the region. The attack adds a new layer of complexity to the already tense situation in the Middle East, particularly amid the Israel-Hamas war.

The missile was directed towards the USS Laboon, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer operating in the southern part of the Red Sea. Fortunately, a U.S. fighter jet intercepted and shot down the missile, averting potential injuries or damage. The Houthi rebels, a Shiite group allied with Iran, seized Yemen’s capital in 2014 and have been a focal point of regional tensions.

The U.S. military’s Central Command issued a statement confirming the incident, revealing that the anti-ship cruise missile originated from Houthi-controlled areas near Hodeida, a significant Red Sea port city. Despite the attack, no injuries or damages were reported.

While the Houthi rebels have not immediately claimed responsibility for the missile launch, the incident raises concerns about the safety of global shipping in the vital corridor that connects Asian and Middle Eastern energy and cargo shipments to the Suez Canal, onward to Europe.

In response to the latest attack, President Joe Biden stated that he “will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary.” The U.S.-led strikes initiated on Friday targeted 28 locations, hitting over 60 targets with cruise missiles and bombs launched from various platforms, including fighter jets, warships, and a submarine.

The strikes aimed at weapon depots, radars, and command centers, signaling a robust response to the persistent threats posed by Houthi attacks on shipping in the Red Sea. The international community is closely monitoring the situation, with concerns that the conflict could escalate further and spill into a broader regional conflagration.

Shipping in the Red Sea has already been impacted, with the U.S. Navy issuing a warning to American-flagged vessels to avoid areas around Yemen in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden for 72 hours after the initial airstrikes. The attacks not only pose a threat to maritime operations but also risk exacerbating the existing humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where the Saudi-led, U.S.-backed war has led to significant casualties and created one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.

As tensions continue to escalate, the international community is grappling with the challenge of maintaining stability in the region. The Houthis, for their part, have linked their attacks to Israel’s offensive in Gaza against Hamas, though their targeting of vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel has raised concerns about the broader impact on global trade.

The situation remains fluid, with the possibility of further U.S. actions in response to the latest missile attack. The delicate balance in the Middle East is at stake, requiring strategic and diplomatic efforts to prevent a wider conflict that could have far-reaching consequences for the region and beyond.

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