December 12, 2023 | Flash Brief

Houthis Attack Commercial Ship off Coast of Yemen

December 12, 2023 | Flash Brief

Houthis Attack Commercial Ship off Coast of Yemen

Latest Developments

The Iran-backed Houthis attacked a commercial ship off the coast of Yemen on December 11. U.S. Central Command said that an anti-ship missile struck the tanker Strinda, which was transiting the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. “The Strinda reported damage causing a fire on board but no casualties at this time,” U.S. Central Command said in a statement. The attack comes in the wake of repeated Houthi threats to attack all ships that are bound for Israeli ports.

Expert Analysis

“The Biden administration should use the existing Combined Task Force 153 to urgently build a larger international effort to protect commercial vessels sailing near Yemen and to interdict Iranian weapons smuggling to the Houthis. That could help deter and defeat attacks as well as defend freedom of navigation and the unimpeded flow of commerce through one of the world’s most important maritime chokepoints.” — Bradley Bowman, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power

“The Houthi threats to shipping in the Red Sea and strategic Bab al-Mandeb Strait are increasing. The Iranian-backed group has enjoyed impunity while attacking numerous ships. The group openly says it is supporting Hamas in the wake of the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7. The Houthis have also said they will attempt to blockade Israel by attacking any ship bound for Israeli ports. The group is now an existential threat to a key shipping lane, and it must be deterred from further attacks.” — Seth J. Frantzman, FDD Adjunct Fellow

“Attacks in the Red Sea are not a Houthi decision but an Iranian directive with the goal of pressuring the international community into forcing Israel to cease its war and save Hamas from destruction. Moreover, the lack of a response by the United States and its allies against these acts of terrorism sets a dangerous precedence that must be corrected without delay.” Joe Truzman, Research Analyst at FDD’s Long War Journal

U.S. Warships Render Assistance to Ships in Distress

The U.S. Navy has played a key role in rendering assistance to ships attacked by the Houthis over the last two months. On December 6, the USS Mason shot down a drone in the Red Sea. On December 3, U.S. Central Command said the USS Carney responded to four attacks on three commercial ships: The Carney assisted the Unity Explorer — a Bahamas-flagged bulk cargo ship owned and operated by the United Kingdom — after an anti-ship ballistic missile landed in its vicinity. In a separate attack hours later, a missile struck the Unity Explorer itself. Likewise, the Carney assisted the M/V Number 9 — a Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier owned and operated by Bermuda and the United Kingdom — after a missile struck it. The Carney also assisted the M/V Sophie II — a Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier crewed by sailors from eight countries — after another missile struck it.

French Warship Downs Houthi Drones

The French warship Languedoc, a multi-mission frigate, shot down two Houthi drones in the Red Sea on December 9. The French foreign ministry said the drones were attempting to attack the ship and characterized the interception of the drones as “deterrence.” The targeted region of the Red Sea is an important shipping lane that sees 20,000 ships transit the area per year, French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu noted in a statement about the incident.

Expand existing task force to protect Red Sea from Houthi attacks,” by Bradley Bowman and Mike Daum

Houthis Escalate Threats to Target all Ships Bound for Israel in Red Sea,” FDD Flash Brief

Houthis in Yemen Target Vessels in Red Sea,” FDD Flash Brief

Iranian-Backed Houthis Hijack Ship in Red Sea,” FDD Flash Brief


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War Military and Political Power