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Missile targets ship off Yemen as rebels threaten wider campaign

Yemenis brandish weapons as they march in the Huthi-run capital Sanaa in support of Palestinians and Hamas
— Dubai (AFP)

A missile fired at a ship in the Red Sea caused no damage, marine security monitors said Friday, as Yemen's Huthi rebels threatened to expand their harassment campaign which has disrupted global trade.

The Royal Navy's United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations and security firm Ambrey had reported that the ship was damaged after being hit west of the rebel-held Yemeni port of Hodeida in the early hours of Friday.

But a daylight inspection showed that the vessel had not been impacted by the missile and had not sustained damage, UKMTO and Ambrey said in a later update.

Ambrey said the "vessel was listed as Israel-affiliated but had changed ownership in February 2024", adding that it was headed from Singapore to the Suez Canal with armed guards onboard.

The same tanker was nearly hit by a missile southeast of Yemen's port of Aden the previous day, Ambrey said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility from the Iran-backed Huthis, who have launched dozens of missile and drone strikes on shipping in the commercially vital seaway over the past four months.

The rebels say they are targeting Israel-linked shipping as part of an "axis of resistance" of Iran allies and proxies, in protest at Israel's war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The Huthi attacks, including a deadly assault on a bulk carrier last week and the sinking of a ship carrying thousands of tonnes of fertiliser, have triggered reprisal strikes by US and British forces.

On Thursday, the US military said it had destroyed nine anti-ship ballistic missiles and two drones after the Huthis fired on ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

Such exchanges have become a frequent occurrence in the area, sending shipping insurance costs soaring and prompting many firms to detour around the southern tip of Africa.

Late on Thursday, rebel leader Abdul Malik al-Huthi said the Huthis would expand their attacks to ships taking the longer route around Africa's Cape of Good Hope.

"We are moving, with the grace and help of God Almighty, to prevent them from crossing even through the Indian Ocean and from South Africa," he said in a speech broadcast by the rebels' Al-Masirah TV channel.

"We have begun implementing our related operations," he added.

Twelve "targeting operations" using 58 missiles were carried out against commercial and military ships this week in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea, the Huthi leader said.