Houthi attacks appear to increase as rebel campaign gains momentum off Yemen’s coast

A ship traveling in the Gulf of Aden came under attack on Thursday, officials said, the latest assault carried out by Yemen’s Houthi rebels amid Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza. The attack comes after the U.S. military said early Thursday an allied warship shot down a Houthi missile targeting a vessel the day before near the same area. The Houthis claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s assault, which comes after a period of relatively few rebel attacks on shipping in the region over recent months amid fighting in the Gaza Strip.

In Thursday’s attack, a ship was targeted just over 25 kilometers (15 miles) southwest of Aden, according to the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center. The captain “reports a loud bang heard and a splash and smoke seen coming from the sea,” the UKMTO said. “Vessel and all crew are safe.” The attack was also reported by the private security firm Ambrey. The Houthis later claimed responsibility for the attack on Thursday, identifying the ship as the MSC Darwin.

European Union forces separately shot down a drone launched from Houthi territory on Thursday, Gen. Robert Brieger said. Separately on Wednesday, the British warship HMS Diamond conducted the first successful missile interception by the Royal Navy since 1991 when it destroyed a Houthi missile targeting merchant ships.

The Houthis have launched over 50 attacks on shipping, seized one vessel and sunk another since November, according to the U.S. Maritime Administration. Houthi attacks had dropped in recent weeks as the rebels have been targeted by a U.S.-led air campaign in Yemen and shipping through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden declined due to threat. American officials have speculated that the rebels may be running low on weapons due to the U.S.-led campaign against them and have been firing drones and missiles steadily in recent months.

However, Wednesday’s attack was the first by rebels in some time. An explosion struck around 130 kilometers (80 miles) southeast of Djibouti in the Gulf of Aden, according to the UKMTO. Early Thursday, the U.S. military‚Äôs Central Command said the explosion came from a coalition warship shooting down the missile likely targeting the MV Yorktown, a U.S.-flagged, owned and operated vessel with 18 U.S. and four Greek crew members. “There were no injuries or damage reported by U.S., coalition or commercial ships,” Central Command said. Saree claimed that attack but insisted without evidence that the missile hit the Yorktown. Saree also claimed the Houthis targeted another ship in the Indian Ocean, without providing proof. The Houthis have made repeated claims during their yearslong war in Yemen that turned out to not be true.

The Houthis have said they will continue their attacks until Israel ends its war in Gaza, which has killed over 34,000 Palestinians there. The war began after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking some 250 others hostage. Most of the ships targeted by the Houthis have had little or no direct connection to Israel, the U.S. or other nations involved in the war. The rebels have also fired missiles toward Israel, though they have largely fallen short or been intercepted.