On Friday, the U.S. military reported that Iran-backed Houthi rebels targeted a British-linked vessel and fired at a U.S. Navy warship in the Red Sea region, heightening tensions amid the ongoing Israel–Hamas conflict in the Middle East.
The Marlin Luanda, a Marshall-Islands flagged oil tanker operated by a U.K. company, was struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile launched from Houthi-controlled Yemen while sailing through the Gulf of Aden, according to U.S. Central Command. The attack occurred around 7:45 p.m. local time on Friday, resulting in damage to the ship but no reported injuries.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations of the British military confirmed the attack, acknowledging that the vessel was hit and caught fire. In a subsequent statement on Saturday, Trafigura, a multinational trading company, reassured that the crew was safe and the fire had been extinguished.
Tensions in Yemen and the Red Sea have been escalating since Hamas, another Iran-backed group, invaded Israel on October 7, causing over 1,000 casualties. The Houthis, in solidarity with Hamas, have vowed to disrupt international trade in the region, pressuring Israel to end the conflict.
Earlier on Friday, the Houthis also fired an anti-ship ballistic missile towards the USS Carney, but the projectile was deflected, as confirmed by Central Command in a separate statement. This incident marked the first direct targeting of a U.S. warship by the militia since their attacks on Red Sea shipping lanes began in mid-November.
Yahya Saree, the Houthi military spokesman, claimed responsibility for the strike on the Marlin Luanda but did not acknowledge the USS Carney attack.
In response to the attacks, U.S. military forces conducted a self-defense strike against a Houthi anti-ship missile being prepared for launch around 3:45 a.m. on Saturday. Central Command stated that this action aimed to protect freedom of navigation, ensuring the safety of U.S. Navy vessels and merchant vessels in international waters.
Despite U.S. retaliation, the Houthis remain committed to assaulting Red Sea commercial shipping in protest of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. Earlier in the week, the U.S. and U.K. initiated a second round of preemptive strikes on missile-launching areas and weapons caches used by the Houthis based in Yemen.