There's been a fresh attack on commercial shipping in the Red Sea on Wednesday, which reportedly resulted in a US warship intervening and firing on an inbound drone believed launched by Yemen's Houthi rebels.
The American warship had responded to reports that the oil and chemical tanker Marshall Islands-flagged Ardmore Encounter had come under attack. The Ardmore Encounter had been traveling north toward the Suez Canal in the Red Sea from India at the time.
The vessel, which had a security crew aboard, reported an "exchange of fire" with a speedboat some 55 nautical miles (or just over 100km off Yemen's main port of Hodeidah, according to emerging Associated Press reporting.
The approaching speedboat claimed to be the Yemeni Navy and ordered the commercial vessel to halt, but a nearby warship identified as a "coalition" naval vessel told the Ardmore Encounter to maintain its course. When the hostile boat approached within 300 meters, it unleashed small arms fire.
During the incident, a responding US warship shot down a suspected Houthi drone which was inbound. According to regional sources and breaking reports, the hostile speedboat is harassing additional commercial vessels in the area:
Shortly after the tanker incident, Ambrey said, the speedboat approached a Malta-flagged bulk carrier 52 nautical miles off Hodeidah’s shores, adding that it would provide updates as relevant.
Britain’s Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency says it is closely monitoring the situation after another incident involving armed men on a speedboat making a hostile approach against two additional vessels transiting off Yemen.
This marks at least half a dozen serious attacks against commercial shipping in the Red Sea. Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis have threatened to close the whole area to shipping due to the ongoing Israeli onslaught in Gaza. The group weeks ago 'declared war' on Israel and has sent several ballistic missiles toward Israel.
In some instances, US warships have been able to intercept the missiles, which has also included increased drone launches.
The US Navy has warned it will continue to act against threats to international shipping in the Red Sea. "These attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security," a recent US military statement said. "They have jeopardized the lives of international crews representing multiple countries around the world."
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