Naval clash in Red Sea between Yemen and US forces; three boats sink, 10 killed

Ship on Red Sea, Aquaba, Jordan. [File Photo]

The Houthis initiated an attack on the Maersk container ship, prompting US helicopters to engage Houthi boats. Subsequently, the Houthis retaliated by opening fire on the US helicopters. This led to a naval clash resulting in the sinking of three ships and the reported death of 10 militants, Reuters reported.

Accounts from American, Maersk, and Houthi officials provide conflicting perspectives on the incident, the news agency said.

The confrontation unfolded around 0330 GMT on Sunday as Houthi attackers sought to board the Singapore-flagged Maersk Hangzhou, a vessel about three-quarters the size of New York’s Central Park.

The US Central Command (CENTCOM) and Maersk reported that helicopters from the USS Eisenhower and USS Gravely joined the ship’s security team in thwarting the attackers following a distress call.

Maersk, one of the world’s top cargo shippers, announced a temporary pause of 48 hours in all sailing through the Red Sea in the aftermath of the attack.

The naval battle highlights the escalating risk of regional conflict as Israel continues its relentless bombing campaign, and Yemen’s Houthis persist in targeting vessels in the Red Sea. The Red Sea is a critical entry point for ships using the Suez Canal, handling approximately 12% of global trade.

The United States launched Operation Prosperity Guardian on December 19, aiming to safeguard ships in Red Sea waters near Yemen. Despite ongoing attacks, Maersk had announced its intention to resume sailing through the Red Sea on December 24.

The botched Houthi boarding operation marked the second attack on the Maersk Hangzhou in as many days. The vessel, en route from Singapore with 14,000 containers, experienced a missile strike about 55 nautical miles southwest of Al Hodeidah, Yemen, on Saturday. Maersk confirmed the crew’s safety, and the vessel continued its journey north toward the Suez Canal.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby declined to specify US options when questioned about a preemptive strike on the Houthis, Reuters reported.

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