Two U.S.-flagged merchant ships were attacked in the Red Sea on Wednesday by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in the Iranian-backed group’s latest act of aggression in the region.
Shipping giant Maersk said in a statement to The Hill that the Maersk Detroit and Maersk Chesapeake were attacked during a transit through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. The strait is a major targeting point for the Houthi rebels in a campaign to attack merchant shipping.
The ships were under a U.S. Navy escort, which intercepted multiple rounds of fire, according to Maersk and U.S. officials.
Neither vessel was damaged in the attack, and the crews of both ships are unharmed, Maersk said.
The Navy is escorting the ships, part of the U.S. subsidiary Maersk Line, Limited (MLL), back to the Gulf of Aden.
“The safety of our crews is of utmost importance,” Maersk said in a statement. “Following the escalation of risk, MLL is suspending transits in the region until further notice.”
U.S. Central Command said in a release that the attack occurred around 2 p.m. local time, with the Houthis firing three anti-ship ballistic missiles at the commercial ships. One missile fell in the sea and the other two were intercepted.
The U.S. has launched a series of strikes against the Houthis in Yemen to stop the attacks on commercial shipping and deployed a maritime task force to defend boats, but the militant group is keeping up its aggression.
Houthi rebels have attacked ships more than 30 times since November in a campaign they claim is targeting Israel-based ships or ships headed to Israel to protest the Israeli war in Gaza.
Amid the tensions, Maersk and other major shipping companies have largely paused operations in the Red Sea and are transiting around Africa in a costly diversion.