Blast near a ship off Yemen may mark a new attack by Houthi rebels

View of the U.S.S. Gravely (DDG 107) destroyer in the south Red Sea, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024.
View of the U.S.S. Gravely (DDG 107) destroyer in the south Red Sea, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. Copyright Bernat Armangue/AP
Copyright Bernat Armangue/AP
By Euronews with AP
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Attacks have lulled in recent weeks following a US-led airstrike campaign targeting the rebels in Yemen.


Reports say a ship near the strategic Bab el-Mandeb Strait may have witnessed an explosion in the distance on Wednesday, possibly signalling a new attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels.

The strait between Djibouti and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa and Yemen connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden in the Indian Ocean and is a crucial waterway for international trade and aid.

The explosion comes after a relative lull from the Houthis, who have launched dozens of attacks on shipping in the region over Israel's ongoing war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The Houthis did not immediately claim responsibility for the blast, which was reported by the British military's United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations Centre. But suspicion still fell on the group, which typically takes several hours before acknowledging an assault.

The explosion happened some 130km southeast of Djibouti in the Gulf of Aden.

“The master of a merchant vessel reports an explosion in the water a distance from the vessel,” the UKMTO said. “Vessel and crew reported safe. Authorities are investigating."

The private maritime security firm Ambrey separately reported the incident.

Frequent attacks on shipping

The Houthis have launched more than 50 attacks on shipping, seized one vessel and sank another since November, according to the US Maritime Administration. Shipping through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden has declined because of the threat.

Houthi attacks have dropped in recent weeks as a result of a US-led airstrike campaign in Yemen that has targeted the rebels. American officials have speculated that the rebels may also be running out of weapons as a result of the campaign.

However, the Houthis have said they would continue their attacks until Israel ends its war in Gaza, which has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, most of them civilians. 

The ships targeted by the Houthis largely have had little or no direct connection to Israel, the US or other nations involved in the war. While the rebels have also fired missiles toward Israel itself, they have generally either fallen short or been intercepted.

The assaults have raised the profile of the Houthis, who are members of Islam’s minority Shiite Zaydi sect, which ruled Yemen for 1,000 years until 1962. 

The group seized Sanaa, Yemen's capital, in late 2014. A Saudi-led coalition has been battling the group in a stalemated conflict since 2015.

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