Houthi Drone Boat Exploded in the Red Sea.

On Thursday, a Houthi drone boat loaded with explosives exploded in the Red Sea, failing to cause any damage or casualties, according to the US Navy. Despite international calls to cease their attacks, the Yemen-based group persisted in its aggressive actions. The incident occurred just a day after 12 nations, including the United States, Britain, and Japan, issued a joint statement warning the Houthis of unspecified “consequences” if they continued their attacks—a move described by a US official as a final warning.

The Houthis, aligned with Iran and controlling a significant portion of Yemen, have been launching a series of drone and missile attacks on commercial vessels since November 19. They claim this is in protest Israel’s military operations in Gaza. These assaults have severely disrupted international shipping, prompting some companies to reroute through the longer and more expensive journey around Africa instead of transiting the Red Sea.

Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, leading US Naval forces in the Middle East, reported that the Houthi explosive boat travelled approximately 50 miles into the Red Sea before detonating in busy shipping lanes. Although it approached within a couple of miles of merchant ships and US Navy vessels, the specific target of the attack remains unclear.

With 25 attacks on merchant vessels in the southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, Cooper emphasized that there are no indications of the Houthis scaling back their “irresponsible behaviour.” The repeated attacks have heightened pressure on President Joe Biden to respond militarily, but the administration has been cautious, wary of further escalating regional tensions.

Retired four-star Marine general Frank McKenzie criticized the administration’s response as “tentative” and “unfocused,” advocating for a reset of deterrence through decisive actions. The US and other countries-initiated Operation Prosperity Guardian last month to safeguard civilian vessels, with contributions from 22 nations. Cooper disclosed that US and partner forces have successfully intercepted cruise missiles, anti-ship ballistic missiles, and drones in various incidents.

Addressing concerns about potential strikes against Houthi positions, Cooper clarified that the 22-nation coalition’s focus is purely defensive. Despite the Houthis claiming their attacks target vessels with Israeli connections or en route to Israel, many affected ships had no such affiliations, leading major shipping lines to suspend Red Sea operations. Cooper stressed the destabilizing nature of Houthi attacks, urging an immediate cessation in compliance with international law.

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