Yemeni Rebels Launch Missiles at US Warship Responding to Tanker Attack
In a recent escalation of tensions in the Gulf of Aden, two ballistic missiles were fired from Yemen, controlled by Houthi rebels, towards a US warship. The incident followed the distress call from a seized commercial tanker, the Central Park, prompting the US Navy’s response.
The Central Command revealed that armed individuals had seized the tanker, loaded with phosphoric acid, leading its crew to call for assistance, stating they were under attack from an unknown entity. As per international maritime norms, vessels in the vicinity are obligated to respond to distress signals. However, the Central Command noted that three Chinese Navy vessels in the area did not assist.
The Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, have been responsible for multiple attacks against US interests and Israel since the October 7 Hamas attacks. Concerns persist that the Israel-Hamas conflict could widen, amplifying the regional turmoil.
Initial indications suggest that the attackers, currently held on the USS Mason, are of Somali origin. The guided-missile destroyer, along with allied ships, responded to the distress call, demanding the release of the seized vessel. Five armed individuals attempted to flee on a small boat but surrendered after pursuit by the Mason.
Less than two hours after the USS Mason cleared Central Park, two ballistic missiles were launched from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen toward the general location of the warship and the tanker. The missiles landed harmlessly in the Gulf of Aden, approximately ten nautical miles from the ships.
The Pentagon, while tracking the missiles, did not attempt to intercept them, and there were no reported injuries or damage. The USS Mason and Central Park remained unharmed. The incident raises concerns about the ongoing regional conflicts, particularly the Israel-Hamas war and the Houthi attacks.
The seized tanker, managed by UK-based Zodiac Maritime, is reported to be safe, with no harm to the crew, vessel, or cargo. Zodiac Maritime has links to Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Ofer Global, though the spokesperson clarified that Zodiac is not owned by Ofer Global.
The USS Mason’s response aligns with the US Central Command’s commitment to maritime domain security, emphasizing collaboration with allies and partners to ensure the safety of international shipping lanes.
Despite the recent attacks, the Pentagon assesses that the Israel-Hamas conflict has not yet escalated into a regional conflict. While tensions remain high, efforts are underway to prevent further escalation and maintain stability in the region.
In recent weeks, Houthi forces have issued warnings to ships in the Red Sea flying the Israeli flag or associated with Israeli companies. The group vowed to continue military operations against Israeli ships until Israel’s aggression against Gaza ceases.
The Pentagon acknowledges the attempts of Iranian proxies to capitalize on the Israel-Hamas conflict to advance their goals. However, it emphasizes that the current situation does not constitute a regional conflict, although tensions warrant serious attention and preventive measures.