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Second ship 'hit by missile' in just two days off Yemen coast despite US-UK airstrikes on Houthi rebels

Second ship 'hit by missile' in just two days off Yemen coast despite US-UK airstrikes on Houthi rebels

A second ship in two days was reported to have been hit by a missile off the Yemen coast, maritime experts said on Tuesday.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said: "UKMTO has receive a report of an incident approximately 100NM North West of Saleef, Yemen.

"Company security officer reports vessel has been hit by an unknown object in the cargo hold.

"Authorities are investigating.

"Vessels are advised to transit with caution and report any suspicious activity."

Intelligence security firm Ambrey said the vessel was a Malta-flagged, Greek-owned bulk carrier which was "reportedly targeted and impacted with a missile".

The incident came after a US-owned ship with hit on Monday by a missile off the coast of Yemen, according to maritime experts.

Ambrey identified the vessel as the Eagle Gibraltar, a Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier. The ship is reportedly owned by Eagle Bulk, a Stamford, Connecticut-based firm traded on the New York Stock Exchange

It added that the missile caused a fire in the hold of the ship but the vessel remains seaworthy, according to Sky News.

There were no reports of casualties.

Ambrey said three missiles were reportedly launched by the Houthis, with two not reaching the sea and the third striking the bulk carrier.

Later on Monday an explosion was heard near Hodeidah airport on the Red Sea in Yemen. It was not immediately clear what had caused the blast.

US Central Command confirmed the attack on the container ship on Monday.

In an update, it said: "On Jan. 15 at approximately 4 p.m. (Sanaa time), Iranian-backed Houthi militants fired an anti-ship ballistic missile from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and struck the M/V Gibraltar Eagle, a Marshall Islands-flagged, U.S.-owned and operated container ship.

"The ship has reported no injuries or significant damage and is continuing its journey."

It added: "Earlier in the day, at approximately 2 p.m. (Sanaa time), U.S. Forces detected an anti-ship ballistic missile fired toward the Southern Red Sea commercial shipping lanes. The missile failed in flight and impacted on land in Yemen. There were no injuries or damage reported."

Earlier, Britain warned Iran-backed Houthi rebels to “take a lesson” from US-UK bombings on their sites in Yemen and stop attacking ships in the Red Sea or face more air strikes.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps delivered the stark message just hours after it emerged that another missile had been fired towards a US warship in the Red Sea.

He stressed that the UK and US did not want to be dragged into a growing Middle East conflict as the war between Israel and terror group Hamas rages on.

But he also emphasied that the Houthi rebels could not act like “thugs” to “harass” ships in the Red Sea.

After the US-UK air strikes last week, Mr Shapps told BBC Breakfast: “We said that this was a discrete action.

“Of course, if the Houthis don’t stop we have to look at this again.

“We very much hope that they will take a lesson from this and stop harassing shipping which has a perfect right to be travelling through the Red Sea.”

Asked if Britain would launch more strikes if needed to stop the attacks, the Cabinet minister told Sky News: “Yeah, I’m afraid...but let’s wait and see what happens because it’s not that we want to be involved in actions in the Red Sea but ultimately freedom of navigation is an international right that must be protected.”

Pressed further whether that was a yes, he added: “We will keep it under review and they should be aware that if it doesn’t stop then of course we will then have to take the decisions that need to be taken.”

However, the Houthis, who control the capital Sanaa and much of the west and north of Yemen, have vowed to continue attacks in the Red Sea since the US and British strikes.

US fighter aircraft shot down a missile fired towards a warship in the Red Sea, military chiefs said on Monday morning, amid fears America and Britain risk being dragged into a growing Middle East conflict.

The incident came ahead of Rishi Sunak delivering a statement to Parliament on the UK and US air strikes last Thursday on Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen blamed for nearly 30 attacks on commercial and military warships in the Red Sea.

US Central Command messaged early on Monday morning: “ On Jan. 14 at approximately 4:45 p.m. (Sanaa time), an anti-ship cruise missile was fired from Iranian-backed Houthi militant areas of Yemen toward USS Laboon (DDG 58), which was operating in the Southern Red Sea.

“The missile was shot down in vicinity of the coast of Hudaydah by U.S. fighter aircraft. There were no injuries or damage reported.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak updates MPs over the Red Sea shipping attacks (PA)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak updates MPs over the Red Sea shipping attacks (PA)

Addressing MPs in London later, Mr Sunak said: "The threats to shipping must cease. Illegally detained vessels and crews must be released. And we remain prepared to back our words with actions."

Asked if Britain would launch more air strikes if the Houthi attacks continued, he emphasised that the Government "would not hesitate" to protect UK interests, at home and abroad.

He added: "We have attempted to resolve this through diplomacy. After numerous international calls for the attacks to stop, a coalition of countries gave the Houthis a clear and unambiguous warning two weeks ago."

He cited a resolution of the UN Security Council "condemning the attacks and highlighting the right of nations to defend their vessels and preserve freedom of navigation".

"Yet the Houthis continued on their reckless path," he said.

The Prime Minister told MPs that all 13 planned targets had been destroyed in the strikes with no reports of civilian casualties, and also explained why he had not informed Parliament before the military action took place.

"The need to maximise the security and effectiveness of the operation meant that it was not possible to bring this matter to the House in advance," he added.

He also warned against "conflating" the Allied action against Houthi rebels with the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Mr Shapps, who stressed that the world is now a "more dangerous" place, made clear that Britain, and America, wanted to wait to see how the Houthi rebels responded to the Allies strikes last week involving Four RAF Typhoon FGR4s, as well as US fighter aircraft, ships and a submarine.

The targeting of 16 sites with more than 60 attacks is believed to have partially hit the Houthis ability to launch missiles and drones against commercial and warships in the Red Sea.

Five of the rebel Houthi group’s fighters were reported to have been killed and six wounded.

Local reports said targets included a military base adjacent to Sanaa airport, a military site near Taiz airport, a Houthi naval base in Hodeidah and military sites in Hajjah governorate.

America and allies have deployed a naval task force to the Red Sea under Operation Prosperity Guardian to protect ships, and US and British warships shot down 21 drones and missiles earlier this month to repel the biggest Houthi attack so far.

The Houthis' actions have posed a threat to the flow of global trade, disrupting merchant vessels from passing through the sea to the Suez Canal, a route which serves 15 per cent of world shipping.

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron on Sunday said the Houthis' attacks were among a number of international events which meant the "lights are absolutely flashing red" on the global dashboard, with Vladimir Putin's Ukraine war, as well as China's threats towards Taiwan.

He also defended the Government's decision not to make a statement to Parliament about the strikes on Houthi military targets beforehand.

The Liberal Democrats and SNP had criticised ministers for not taking steps to announce the operation in the Commons before it took place.

But Lord Cameron insisted Mr Sunak had "followed all the correct procedures" before the strikes, including assembling ministers, briefing Sir Keir Starmer and Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, listening to advice, and consulting allies.