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Attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels targets a ship in the Red Sea, though its crew is reportedly safe

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels targeted a tanker in the Red Sea early Friday but the ship’s crew was unharmed, authorities said. It was the latest in the rebels’ campaign against shipping over Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center initially reported the ship had been “struck by a missile” off the port city of Hodeida but later Friday said that further inspection of the vessel in daylight found no damage.

It described the crew as being “safe” and said the ship was continuing on its way.

The private security firm Ambrey also reported Friday’s attack and said the tanker with armed guards aboard had a “near miss” on Thursday off the coast of Yemen in the Gulf of Aden. It said the ship had been Israel-affiliated but changed owners in February.

In a statement, the Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack and identified the tanker as the Panama-flagged, Vietnamese-owned Pacific 01. That tanker previously had been owned by Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping, which has been repeatedly targeted by the Houthis. That company is ultimately controlled by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer.

The rebels also claimed they targeted an American destroyer, without elaborating. U.S. warships have repeatedly been targeted by Houthi missile and drone attacks.

The U.S. military’s Central Command in a statement acknowledged the Houthis fired three anti-ship ballistic missiles Friday into the Red Sea, but said they didn’t hit anything.

The UKMTO and Ambrey reported another attack late Friday, but said the Houthi fire missed the Marshall Islands-flagged gas carrier it apparently tried to target.

The Houthis have attacked ships since November, saying they want to force Israel to end its offensive in Gaza.

The ships targeted by the Houthis, however, largely have had little or no connection to Israel, the U.S. or other nations involved in the war. The rebels have also fired missiles toward Israel, though they have largely fallen short or been intercepted.

The assaults on shipping have raised the profile of the Houthis, who are members of Islam’s minority Shiite Zaydi sect, which ruled Yemen for 1,000 years until 1962.

A report Thursday claimed the Houthis now had a hypersonic missile, potentially increasing that cachet and putting more pressure on Israel after a cease-fire deal failed to take hold in Gaza before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Hypersonic missiles would pose a more serious threat to American and allied warships in the region.

Earlier in March, a Houthi missile struck a commercial ship in the Gulf of Aden, killing three of its crew members and forcing survivors to abandon the vessel. It marked the first fatal attack by the Houthis on shipping.

Other recent Houthi actions include an attack last month on a cargo ship carrying fertilizer, the Rubymar, which later sank after drifting for several days.

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