Two Ships Hit With Missiles, Another Harassed in Red Sea by Houthis, Pentagon Says

December 15, 2023 10:05 PM
Al Jasrah

Two Liberian-flagged ships caught fire in the Red Sea Friday after being hit by Houthi-launched missiles.

A third ship was harassed but not fired upon, a Department of Defense official told USNI News.
The first fire was on the container ship M/V Al Jasrah, owned by Hapag-Lloyd, The Associated Press first reported. The second fire was on MSC Palatium III. Both ships flew under Liberian flags, the DOD official said.

Houthis also hailed MSC Alanya and ordered it to turn to Yemen, the DOD official said. Alanya’s crew did not follow the Houthis. Alanya also sailed under a Liberian flag.

The fires come a day after Houthis attempted to board and reroute the container ship Maersk Gibraltar before firing missiles at it. USS Mason (DDG-87) shot down a Houthi-launched drone while responding to Gibraltar’s distress call, USNI News reported.

Mason began to assist Palatium III, but the ship was able to extinguish the fire and did not need assistance from the U.S. destroyer, the DOD official said.

Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd announced Friday that they would pause all shipping through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. It is unclear if the shipping companies will elect to send ships around the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, as some have done to avoid Houthi interference.

Houthi missiles first hit Al Jasrah, with the British intelligence firm Ambrey confirming the missile hit on the container ship, saying a projectile hit the ship’s left side, causing a container to fall overboard and a fire on the deck, according to the AP.

It is not immediately clear if the ship was planning to make a port call in Israel. The Houthis have said they will attack any ship linked to Israel or heading to or from the country.

Vessel Finder, which uses automatic identification system to track ships, lists Al Jasrah as heading to Singapore from Egypt. Hapag Lloyd has an office in Tel Aviv, Israel.

The Houthis have not yet claimed the attack on Al Jasrah, although the spokesman for the Houthi military said in a series of posts on social media site X that the Houthis attacked both of the MSC ships.

MSC does stop at Israeli ports, but it is unclear if either ship attacked planned to stop in Israel. Yahya Sare’e said in his posts that the Houthi forces attacked the ships because they were heading to Israel.

MSC’s schedule lists Alanya as traveling from Salalah, Oman, to Djibouti then to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It does not list any stops in Israel.

MSC’s website does not provide a schedule for Palatium III.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Friday that the United States continues to condemn the attacks on commercial ships, adding that shipping in the Red Sea has an increased level of danger due to the ongoing strikes. The U.S. is continuing to work on a combined maritime force with other nations in the region, but Kirby did not have any additional details.

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio is a reporter with USNI News. She has a master’s degree in science journalism and has covered local courts, crime, health, military affairs and the Naval Academy.
Follow @hmongilio

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