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In Red Sea oil slick from Houthi ship, US warns of ‘disaster’

  • US warns of Red Sea spill
  • Houthis attack cargo ship
  • Environmental disaster looms

The United States military has issued a dire environmental warning in response to the oil spill in the Red Sea caused by an attack on a cargo ship by the Houthi militants of Yemen.

On 18 February, the UK-owned, Belize-flagged bulk carrier Rubymar was hit by multiple missiles from the Iran-aligned group. It was en route to Bulgaria via the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, which connects the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea, after leaving Khor Fakkan in the United Arab Emirates.

The ship’s crew evacuated, all of whom were unharmed, due to the extensive damage.

On Saturday, US Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed that the vessel was “anchored but gradually taking on water,” resulting in an oil slick extending 29 kilometres (18 miles), according to CENTCOM.

Environmental Crisis Amid Conflict

According to the military, the attacked vessel was carrying over 41,000 tonnes of fertiliser, “which could spill into the Red Sea and exacerbate this environmental disaster.”

“By continuing to disregard the regional consequences of their indiscriminate attacks, the Houthis continue to threaten the fishing industry, coastal communities, and food imports,” the statement continued.

CNN quoted an unidentified US official as saying that the condition of the water and the possibility of further Houthi attacks in the Red Sea make it exceedingly dangerous to approach the ship and attempt to tow it to a port. According to the report, US officials are uncertain about what type of substance is causing the slick.

The group has been disrupting commerce through the Red Sea and has vowed to continue its attacks until Israel stops its conflict in Gaza, which has claimed the lives of over 29,600 Palestinians, the majority of whom are women and children.

In response to Houthi attacks, the United States and the United Kingdom have been conducting aerial bombardments across Yemeni governorates with the support of several allied Western governments. Currently, the military confrontation occurs on a daily basis.

Additionally, the United States military confirmed several additional “self-defence strikes” against Houthi-held areas in Yemen. It claimed to have intercepted and destroyed seven mobile anti-ship cruise missiles en route to the Red Sea.

Enhancing Maritime Security Measures

CENTCOM stated, “These actions will secure international waters for US Navy and merchant vessels and protect freedom of navigation.”

The Houthis, who control the most populous regions of Yemen, reportedly attacked the MSC Silver, an Israeli cargo ship, in the Gulf of Aden near the entrance to the Red Sea, earlier this week.

Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree stated that the group had also targeted a number of American warships in the Arabian Sea and Red Sea, in addition to sites in the southern Israeli resort town of Eilat, with drones.

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US officials confirmed earlier this week, according to US media, that the Houthis had shot down an MQ-9 attack drone near Yemen. This marks the second time since the start of the Gaza conflict that the Houthis have shot down a US military drone.

On Thursday, Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi claimed that his group had deployed “submarine weapons” in its attacks. This confirms a previous US military report that the group is using underwater drones.

Since the start of the Gaza conflict, the Houthis have recruited and trained over two hundred thousand additional fighters, according to a Houthi spokesman.

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