Authorities reported that two missiles fired by Yemen Houthis struck a ship carrying corn en route to an Iranian port on Monday, causing minor damage but no injuries to the crew.
The Houthis' expanded intent to target vessels traversing the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea, and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait that connects the two bodies of water is demonstrated by the assault on the Greek-operated bulk carrier Star Iris, domiciled in the Marshall Islands. From Brazil, the Star Iris was en route to Bandar Khomeini, Iran, the primary ally and provider of weaponry to the Houthis during their years-long conflict in Yemen.
Ambrey, a private security firm, determined that the most probable destination for the bulk cargo traded by the owner and operator of the group was Iran. Ambrey also reported that the assault compromised the starboard side of the Star Iris.
The Houthis attempted to label the Star Iris an "American" vessel and claimed that multiple missiles were directed at the vessel. Star Bulk Carriers Corp. of Athens, Greece, the ultimate proprietor of the Star Iris, is a publicly traded company on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange in New York. There was no response to the inquiry for comment.
Houthi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree issued the following statement following the attack: "The Houthis will not hesitate to conduct additional operations in retaliation to the Zionist crimes against our brothers in the Gaza Strip and in response to the ongoing American-British aggression against our dear country."
Iran declined to confirm the whereabouts of the Star Iris; however, early Tuesday, the Central Command of the United States Military issued a statement confirming this. Central Command identified the cargo as Brazilian maize en route to Iran. Brazil exports corn to Iran, primarily for use as animal fodder.
United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, an organization that monitors waters in the Middle East on behalf of the British military, documented the assault, stating that it transpired as the Star Iris made its way south via the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, an area separating East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
The ship's commander reported that his vessel was attacked by two missiles and sustained minor damage, according to the UKMTO. "The crew and vessel are secure. "Vessel en route to its subsequent port of call."
After several days without any reports of Houthi attacks on ships, the Star Iris became a target. The delay remains uncertain, but the United States and the United Kingdom have executed numerous airstrikes against the Houthis' missile arsenals and launch sites located in territory they control.
Due to Israel's offensive in Gaza, the Houthis have repeatedly targeted vessels in the Red Sea since November. Militants have consistently targeted vessels with ambiguous or marginal connections to Israel, putting shipping along a vital trade route connecting Asia, the Middle East, and Europe at risk.