Tanker hit by missile was due to stop in Israel, shipping firm says

By Isaac M December 12, 2023

A tanker that was hit by a missile off the coast of Yemen was due to make a stop in Israel, its owners have confirmed.

The MT Strinda was attacked in the Red Sea near the port city of Mokha on Monday night.

The ship caught fire but the crew on board managed to bring the blaze under control and there were no reports of any injuries.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attack and said the Norwegian-owned ship was heading to Israel.

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Shipping firm Mowinckel had earlier said the vessel was carrying biofuel from Malaysia to Italy via the Suez Canal.

But it has now admitted it was also “tentatively” scheduled to make a stop at the Israeli port of Ashdod.

“Upon the recommendation of our security advisers, it was decided to withhold this information until the vessel and her crew were in safe waters,” the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

The ship and its crew have now travelled to a “safe port”, a spokesperson added.

It comes amid a growing number of attacks on ships in the Red Sea by Houthi rebels as they attempt to put pressure on Israel to stop bombing the Gaza Strip.

Houthi spokesperson Brigadier Yahya Saree said the group fired a missile and then used a drone to attack the vessel after it “rejected all warning calls.”

He added: “The Yemeni armed forces continue to prevent Israeli ships from navigating the Red Sea until the Israeli aggression against our steadfast brothers in the Gaza Strip stops.

“The Yemeni armed forces renew their warning to all Israeli ships or those associated with Israelis, that they will become a legitimate target if they violate what is stated in this statement.”

Brigadier Yahya Saree, Houthi military spokesperson. Pic: AP
Image:
Brigadier Yahya Saree. Pic: AP

In a statement, Mowinckel said: “There is no Israeli link to the ownership or the management of the vessel. She was, however, tentatively nominated by her charterers for a cargo out of Ashdod in January.

“The contract was entered into three weeks ago, subject to no further escalations in the area. Owners had an option to cancel the contract if such a worsening of the situation would take place.”

Control of Yemen is split between Iran-backed Houthi rebels and Saudi-backed government forces, with British military support. The country has been locked in a devastating civil war in recent years although a tentative truce is currently in place.

Earlier this month Houthi rebels also claimed responsibility for drone and missile attacks on three commercial ships in the Red Sea.

The US described the bombardment as being “fully enabled by Iran” and added that it would “consider all appropriate responses”.

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How Houthis seized cargo ship

In November, the Houthis also seized a cargo ship allegedly linked to Israel in the Red Sea which they are still holding near the port city of Hodeida.

The recent military activity has raised fears of a wider escalation of the Israel-Hamas war and concerns that other ships heading to and from the Suez Canal could also be hit, potentially disrupting global supply chains.

Israel’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, said over the weekend that Israel had called on its Western allies to help tackle attacks from Yemen. He added that Israel would “act to remove this blockade” if the threats persisted.

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