Join +750K new investors every month who copy stock picks from billionaire's portfoliosSign Up Free

US sinks 3 ships, kills 10 after Houthi Red Sea attack

Published 12/31/2023, 12:13 PM
Updated 12/31/2023, 07:50 PM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: CMA CGM Louis Bleriot and a Maersk Line container ship pass through the Suez Canal in Ismailia, Egypt July 7, 2021. Picture taken July 7, 2021. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

By Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Ahmed Elimam

COPENHAGEN/DUBAI/CAIRO (Reuters) -U.S. helicopters repelled an attack by Iran-backed Houthi militants on a Maersk container vessel in the Red Sea, sinking three ships and killing 10 militants, according to accounts by American, Maersk, and Houthi officials on Sunday.

The naval battle occurred around 0330 GMT on Sunday as the attackers sought to board the Singapore-flagged Maersk Hangzhou, Maersk and U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said. Helicopters from the USS Eisenhower and USS Gravely joined the ship's security team in repelling the attackers after receiving a distress call, CENTCOM said.

Maersk said it was pausing all sailing through the Red Sea for 48 hours after the attack.

A spokesman for the Houthis said the group carried out the attack because the ship's crew refused to heed warning calls. He said 10 Houthi naval personnel were "dead and missing" after their boats were attacked by U.S. forces in the Red Sea.

The naval battle underlines the risk of a regional escalation in fighting as Israel continues with its relentless bombing campaign following a Hamas surprise cross-border attack on Israeli towns on Oct. 7 that left 1,200 dead, and took 240 hostages. Israel's air and artillery bombardment has killed more than 21,800 people, according to Gazan health authorities.

Yemen's Houthis have been targeting vessels in the Red Sea since November to show their support for Hamas, prompting major shipping companies to take the longer and costlier route around the Africa's Cape of Good Hope rather than through the Suez Canal.

The Red Sea is the entry point for ships using the Suez Canal, which handles about 12% of global trade and vital for the movement of goods between Asia and Europe.

The United States launched Operation Prosperity Guardian on Dec. 19, saying more than 20 countries had agreed to participate in the efforts to safeguard ships in Red Sea waters near Yemen.

Maersk, one of the world's top cargo shippers, said on Dec. 24 it would resume sailing through the Red Sea. However, attacks have continued and U.S. allies have proven reluctant to commit to the coalition, with nearly half not declaring their presence publicly.

The botched Houthi boarding operation was the second attack on the Maersk Hangzhou in as many days. The ship, which is carrying 14,000 containers en route from Singapore, was on Saturday hit by a missile about 55 nautical miles southwest of Al Hodeidah, Yemen.

The shipping company added that the crew of the Maersk Hangzhou crew was safe and there was no indication of fire onboard the vessel, which continued its journey north toward the Suez Canal.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby (NYSE:KEX) declined to say what options the U.S. is considering when asked on ABC's "Good Morning America" if Washington would consider a preemptive strike on the Houthis.

"We have made it clear publicly to the Houthis, we've made it clear privately to our allies and partners in the region, that we take these threats seriously."

Writing in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, British Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said: "We are willing to take direct action, and we won’t hesitate to take further action to deter threats to freedom of navigation in the Red Sea."

"The Houthis should be under no misunderstanding: we are committed to holding malign actors accountable for unlawful seizures and attacks," he said.

Earlier on Sunday, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said he had told Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian in a call that Iran should help stop the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: CMA CGM Louis Bleriot and a Maersk Line container ship pass through the Suez Canal in Ismailia, Egypt July 7, 2021. Picture taken July 7, 2021. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

The BIMCO shipping association condemned the attacks and thanked those states involved in repelling them.

"We are thankful to U.S., French, and UK efforts so far and hope even more states will support the coalition with naval assets or other impactful means including diplomatic pressure on the Houthis and their sponsors," Jakob Larsen, BIMCO's head of maritime safety and security, told Reuters.

Latest comments

Risk Disclosure: Trading in financial instruments and/or cryptocurrencies involves high risks including the risk of losing some, or all, of your investment amount, and may not be suitable for all investors. Prices of cryptocurrencies are extremely volatile and may be affected by external factors such as financial, regulatory or political events. Trading on margin increases the financial risks.
Before deciding to trade in financial instrument or cryptocurrencies you should be fully informed of the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, carefully consider your investment objectives, level of experience, and risk appetite, and seek professional advice where needed.
Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. The data and prices on the website are not necessarily provided by any market or exchange, but may be provided by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual price at any given market, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Fusion Media and any provider of the data contained in this website will not accept liability for any loss or damage as a result of your trading, or your reliance on the information contained within this website.
It is prohibited to use, store, reproduce, display, modify, transmit or distribute the data contained in this website without the explicit prior written permission of Fusion Media and/or the data provider. All intellectual property rights are reserved by the providers and/or the exchange providing the data contained in this website.
Fusion Media may be compensated by the advertisers that appear on the website, based on your interaction with the advertisements or advertisers.
© 2007-2024 - Fusion Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.