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The U.S. military has seized a vessel transporting Iranian missile parts to Yemen’s Houthi rebels, military officials said on Tuesday.
The raid was conducted last week in the Arabian Sea but only made public on Tuesday, with the U.S. Navy SEALs conducting the maritime operation amid a mounting crisis in Red Sea shipping lanes that have come under constant attack by Houthi rebels.
In the raid, Navy SEALs uncovered components for cruise missiles and ballistic missiles, including warheads, according to U.S. Central Command.
"Initial analysis indicates these same weapons have been employed by the Houthis to threaten and attack innocent mariners on international merchant ships transiting in the Red Sea," Central Command said in a statement. Central Command also noted that this was the first seizure of “lethal, Iranian-supplied advanced conventional weapons (ACW) to the Houthis since the beginning of Houthi attacks against merchant ships in November 2023”. Two Navy SEALs remain missing from the operation, according to VOA, after they were knocked off their small combat craft in rough seas.
The announcement follows reports that Shell has also suspended all its shipments via the Red Sea/Suez Canal route amid rising tensions in the region and fears of escalating Houthi attacks on commercial shipping. According to the Wall Street Journal, a Shell-chartered tanker carrying jet fuel from India was targeted by the Houthis in December.
On Monday, the Houthis fired a missile at a U.S. merchant vessel and a U.S. warship amid escalating tensions that have seen the U.S. and UK strike back since last week.
Shipping industry groups continue to advise vessels to steer clear of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait where the Houthis are launching their drone strike campaign.
In the meantime, the U.S. retaliatory attacks on the Houthi in Yemen have raised tensions further across the region, with Iran’s proxy groups launching strikes at U.S. positions in both Iraq and Syria.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com