By Arab News
By Saeed Al-Batati
Yemen’s Houthi militia said on Saturday that the US and UK militaries carried out two airstrikes on the Red Sea Ras Isa port in Yemen’s western province of Hodeidah.
This comes as Trafigura, an international trading corporation, said that it had extinguished a fire on one of its ships in the Red Sea caused by a Houthi missile hit.
Houthi-run Al-Masira TV reported that the US and UK struck Ras Isa port on Saturday morning, which has an oil export facility and is close to the decaying floating oil ship Safer that has captured the world’s attention over the past several years.
Without naming the target site, the US Central Command said that its forces conducted an airstrike at about 3:45 a.m. (Sanaa time) on Saturday against an anti-ship missile that the Houthis were about to fire.
Yemen’s oil exports from the central province of Marib pass through Ras Isa in Hodeidah, while oil from the southern provinces of Hadramout and Shabwa pass through Arabian Sea oil terminals.
The 48-year-old FSO Safer tanker and its replacement are both berthed at the new Ras Isa oil facility.
The airstrikes in Hodeidah happened after the Houthis launched a ballistic missile at a Marshall Islands-flagged and UK-linked tanker controlled by Trafigura, causing a fire.
Trafigura stated on Saturday that the tanker’s crew was able to extinguish the fire and that all of the crew members were safe, and thanked the Indian, US and French navy warships for their support.
“We are pleased to confirm that all crew on board the Marlin Luanda are safe and the fire in the cargo tank has been fully extinguished. The vessel is now sailing toward a safe harbor,” the company said in a statement.
In a statement by their military spokesperson Yahya Sarea on Friday, the Houthis claimed responsibility for launching “a number of naval missiles” at the British oil ship, claiming that the action was both in support of the Palestinian people and in retribution for UK and US bombings on regions under their control in Yemen.
The Houthis also launched on Friday an anti-ship ballistic missile from regions under their control toward the Arleigh-Burke class destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64) in the Gulf of Aden on Friday, but it was intercepted by the US Navy, according to US Central Command.
In Houthi-controlled Ibb, residents of the Al-Sabrah district reported that the Houthis fired a missile from the Al-Hamza military base in the district on Friday evening but the missile failed to reach its target and exploded shortly after in an area not far from the military base, the latest in a string of botched missile launches by the Houthis.
Experts believe that the Houthis will continue to attack US and UK ships, particularly oil tankers, to remain in the spotlight and build popular support, playing on public outrage over Israel’s war in Gaza, despite the danger of causing a catastrophic environmental disaster off Yemen’s coast.
“They don’t care about the implications for Yemen or the potential of an environmental disaster. The Houthis are trying to project themselves as a power that can defeat the US-led coalition. They are masters of war of attrition and propaganda,” Yemen conflict expert Nadwa Al-Dawsari told Arab News.
He added that the Houthis were infamous for concealing weaponry within civilian infrastructures such as ports to force their enemies to bomb them and then exploit the footage for propaganda.
“Houthis have a history of putting their missile launchers and weapons in civilian facilities. If they are bombed, that is good propaganda material showing that the US is targeting vital civilian infrastructure.”
Meanwhile, Yemen’s internationally recognized Presidential Leadership Council repeated demands on Saturday for foreign relief groups working in Yemen to transfer their headquarters from Houthi-controlled Sanaa to the southern city of Aden, Yemen’s temporary capital.
During a meeting with Sonali Korde, USAID assistant to the administrator for the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance in Riyadh, PLC chairman Rashad Al-Amili said that his government would facilitate international relief organizations that wish to operate in Aden, attacking the Houthis for forcing US and UK citizens working with UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations to leave Yemen within a month.