Houthi attack on UK-registered ship in Red Sea 'caused major oil leak', US millitary says

Houthi supportsers attend a rally against the US-led strikes on Yemen and Israel's war in Gaza Strip (AP)
Houthi supportsers attend a rally against the US-led strikes on Yemen and Israel's war in Gaza Strip (AP)

An attack by Yemeni Houthi rebels on a British-registered ship earlier this month caused a significant oil leak, the US military has said.

The Rubymar, a Belize-flagged, Lebanese-operated cargo vessel, was attacked on February 18 while sailing through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait which connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, US Central Command said.

The missile attack forced the crew to abandon the vessel, which had been on its way to Bulgaria after leaving Khorfakkan in the United Arab Emirates.

It was transporting more than 41,000 tons of fertiliser, CentCom said in a statement.

The statement said the vessel suffered significant damage which caused an 18-mile oil slick, and the ship's cargo "could spill into the Red Sea and worsen this environmental disaster".

"The Houthis continue to demonstrate disregard for the regional impact of their indiscriminate attacks, threatening the fishing industry, coastal communities and imports of food supplies," it added.

Fans of the Houthi show their support (AP)
Fans of the Houthi show their support (AP)

Separately, CentCom said it had launched attacks on Houthi-held areas in Yemen on Friday, destroying seven mobile anti-ship cruise missiles that were prepared to launch towards the Red Sea.

It described the strikes as "self-defence", saying the missiles "presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and to the US Navy ships in the region".

Houthi-run media reported strikes by the US and the UK on the district of Durayhimi in the Red Sea province of Hodeida.

The US military has in recent weeks launched waves of strikes on Houthi-held areas inside Yemen in response to attacks on shipping routes in the Red Sea.

Since November, the rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea and surrounding waters.

They claim to be acting over Israel's war targeting Hamas in the Gaza Strip, but have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, threatening shipping in a key route for trade among Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

The targeted vessels have included at least one with cargo for Iran, the Houthis' main benefactor.