US Navy sinks three Houthi ships that attacked commercial cargo ship | Middle East

US military helicopters destroyed three small ships belonging to Yemen's Houthi rebels in the Red Sea this Sunday, one of the most important sea routes for world trade.

According to the US Navy, four Houthi warships approached and opened fire on a merchant ship Maersk Hangzhou in the early hours of the morning. At around 6:30 a.m. this Sunday (three hours short of mainland Portugal), the cargo ship's crew issued a distress call as Houthi gunmen on board were preparing to storm the civilian vessel.

A request for assistance was received by a North American aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower, patrols have arrived in the area, and helicopters and a destroyer have been dispatched. Upon arrival at the site, the Houthi rebels opened fire while the US military issued “verbal warnings”.

The helicopters “returned to the defense, sinking three of the four small ships and killing the crew,” US Central Command (CENTCOM) said. The US command added that a fourth Houthi boat “fled the scene”.

Maersk Hangzhou had already been hit by a missile fired from Houthi territory in Yemen just hours earlier. At that time, CENTCOM also sent assistance via two destroyers that shot down two ballistic missiles.

The episodes show a resurgence of tensions in the Red Sea, which remains an unsafe area for maritime traffic. Maersk, one of the world's largest shipping companies, suspended Red Sea crossings for 48 hours, with potential impacts on logistics and supply chains.

According to Centcom, the second attack on the Maersk Hangzhou was the 23rd involving attacks by Houthi rebels against merchant ships since November 19.

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Since November, the Houthis, an armed group that has controlled much of Yemen's territory for years, have attacked merchant ships crossing the Red Sea. According to the Iran-backed rebels, the actions are intended to show solidarity with the Palestinian people over the Gaza war, but many of their targets are not directly linked to Israel.

Security threats in the Red Sea endanger the intersection of an important trade route that is fundamental to trade between Europe and Asia. Many companies have suspended crossings through the Red Sea, preferring to bypass the African continent, which will affect the price of many commodities.

In early December, the United States and some allies established a joint force to intensify patrols in the Red Sea, Operation Guardian of the Prosperity, and according to Vice Admiral Brad Cooper in an interview with the AP, about 1,200 merchant ships have passed through without crossing. Under any attack.

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