Ship hit twice in apparent Houthi cruise missile attack off Yemeni coast
  • A commercial ship was reportedly struck twice Thursday by Houthi-fired cruise missiles in the Gulf of Aden.
  • The Palauan-flagged M/V Verbena was still on fire at the time of U.S. Central Command’s report, and the mariner was flown via helicopter to another vessel for medical treatment.
  • “The M/V Verbena reported damage and subsequent fires on board. The crew continues to fight the fire,” a statement by Central Command said.

The U.S. said Thursday that the Iranian-backed Houthis launched two anti-ship cruise missiles and struck a commercial ship in the Gulf of Aden off Yemen, setting it on fire and severely injuring one civilian mariner.

U.S. Central Command said the M/V Verbena was still ablaze and the mariner was flown by a U.S. helicopter based on the USS Philippine Sea to another nearby ship for medical treatment.

In a statement, Central Command said the Verbena is a Palauan-flagged, Ukrainian-owned and Polish-operated bulk cargo carrier that had docked in Malaysia and was on its way to Italy carrying wood. “The M/V Verbena reported damage and subsequent fires on board. The crew continues to fight the fire,” the statement said.


The attack is the latest such assault in the Houthis’ campaign over the Israel-Hamas war.

Earlier Thursday, the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center said a vessel had been attacked and had caught fire. And the private security firm Ambrey said a merchant vessel made a radio distress call saying it had been struck by a missile.

The Houthis did not immediately acknowledge Thursday’s attacks, but it typically takes the rebels hours or even days to claim them. The attack follows the Houthis launching a boat-borne bomb attack against a commercial ship in the Red Sea on Wednesday.

The Houthis, who seized Yemen’s capital nearly a decade ago and have been fighting a Saudi-led coalition since shortly after, have been targeting shipping throughout the Red Sea corridor.

They say the attacks are aimed at stopping the war and supporting the Palestinians, though the attacks often target vessels that have nothing to do with the conflict.

The war in Gaza has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians there, according to Gaza health officials, while hundreds of others have been killed in Israeli operations in the West Bank. It began after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostage.

The Houthis have launched more than 50 attacks on shipping, killed three sailors, seized one vessel and sunk another since November, according to the U.S. Maritime Administration. A U.S.-led airstrike campaign has targeted the Houthis since January, with a series of strikes May 30 killing at least 16 people and wounding 42 others, the rebels say.

Also Thursday, the Washington-based National Democratic Institute said three of its staff were detained by the Houthis earlier this month. Their detention comes as staff of United Nations agencies and those working for aid groups also have been detained in a widening crackdown by the rebels.

“This arbitrary and inhumane treatment of Yemeni citizens involved in humanitarian assistance, diplomacy, democracy and human rights, peacemaking and civil society development is entirely without foundation and must be ended immediately,” the institute said. It called for the “swift release by the Houthi regime of our staff, and of all individuals who have been unjustly detained.”

The institute is a democracy promotion organization that has worked in Yemen since 1993. It receives funding from the U.S. government and others.

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