May 10, 2024 | Flash Brief

Houthis Target Ships Linked to Israel

May 10, 2024 | Flash Brief

Houthis Target Ships Linked to Israel

Latest Developments

The leader of the Houthis announced on May 8 that the Yemen-based, Iran-backed rebel group would target “ships of any company related to supplying or transporting goods to Israel regardless of their destination.” Following more than 50 Houthi strikes against commercial shipping in the Red Sea since November, Abdul Malik al-Houthi described his threat as the “fourth stage” of escalation in retaliation against Israel’s expanding operations in Rafah. The U.S.-designated terror group says attacks against Red Sea commercial shipping will continue as long as the Gaza war does. Accordingly, industry titans Maersk and Hapag Lloyd said they would reroute more ships from the Red Sea. Maersk expects further shipping delays and higher costs.

On May 9, the Houthis said they targeted two European-operated, Panama-flagged container ships — the MSC Diego and the MSC Gina — in the Gulf of Aden with ballistic missiles and drones. The Joint Maritime Information Center said the attacks occurred on May 7, and it believed these ships were “likely targeted due to perceived Israeli affiliation.”

The Houthis also claimed they twice targeted the European-operated, Panama-flagged, Italian-owned MSC Vittoria container ship once in the Indian Ocean and once in the Gulf of Aden.

Expert Analysis

“The Houthis’ bold pronouncements, and the subsequent actions by shipping companies to further avoid the Red Sea, are a reminder that the superb performance of U.S. Navy assets in both defeating inbound missiles in the Red Sea and striking Houthi launchers in Yemen is not enough. If the United States and its allies want to stop the Houthi missile and drone strikes, they have to cut off the supply chain of munitions from Iran, and that will take striking Iranian re-supply assets at sea or in Oman.” — RADM (Ret.) Mark Montgomery, FDD Senior Fellow and Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Cyber and Technology

“Years of nearly unchecked Iranian smuggling to the Houthis let the terror group stockpile a large arsenal of anti-ship weapons. Instead of intercepting the weapons shipments as they traveled by sea, now the U.S. Navy is intercepting them as they fly through the air.” Ryan Brobst, FDD Senior Research Analyst

U.S. Military Strengthens Presence in Red Sea to Counter Houthis

The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Nimitz-class aircraft carrier and the USS Gravely Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer — both part of the U.S. Navy’s Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group — returned to the Red Sea from the Mediterranean Sea this month after more than 200 days of deployment. In November 2023, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group arrived in the Mediterranean to join the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group “in support of the defense of Israel and to deter aggression throughout the region,” said U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa. Air assets inboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower have been used in the past against the Houthis in Yemen, such as the U.S.-led multilateral strike in January that targeted Houthi “missile systems and launchers, air defense systems, radars, and deeply buried weapons storage facilities,” said U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).

CENTCOM said on May 7 that it continues to counter Houthi strikes in coordination with allies “to protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure for U.S., coalition, and merchant vessels.” CENTCOM’s statement comes after the Houthis launched three unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and one anti-ship ballistic missile into the Gulf of Aden beginning late in the evening on May 6. A coalition and U.S. warship each engaged one UAS while the third crashed into the ocean. There was no reported damage or injuries to transiting vessels. 

Is Hezbollah working more closely with the Houthis?” by Seth J. Frantzman

Houthis attack four ships and threaten to expand operations against U.S. forces,” by Ahmad Sharawi

Three Killed by Houthis in Gulf of Aden,” FDD Flash Brief

Strait Talk on the Houthis,” FDD Podcast Featuring Clifford D. May, RADM (Ret.) Mark Montgomery, and Bradley Bowman

Iranian Maritime Aggression,” by Ryan Brobst and Bradley Bowman

Issues:

Gulf States Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War