The U.S. military reported on Sunday that its forces opened fire on Houthi rebels after they attacked a cargo ship in the Red Sea.
The attack escalated the maritime conflict associated with the ongoing war in Gaza.
Intercepting missiles, confronting small boat attacks
The USS Gravely destroyer’s crew responded by shooting down two anti-ship ballistic missiles fired at the Singapore-flagged Maersk Hangzhou.
Subsequently, four small boats attacked the same cargo ship with small-arms fire, prompting a series of events that unfolded over the weekend.
Naval response to Houthi attacks: A Series of Engagements
The USS Gravely and helicopters from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier responded to the distress call from the Maersk Hangzhou. Verbal warnings were issued to the attackers, who responded by firing on the helicopters.
In self-defense, U.S. Navy helicopters returned fire, sinking three of the four attacking boats and killing the individuals on board.
The Houthis acknowledged the death of 10 of their fighters in the confrontation, issuing warnings of consequences.
Houthi attacks in Red Sea prompt U.S. Navy response
The events surrounding the Maersk Hangzhou marked the 23rd illegal attack by the Houthis on international shipping since Nov. 19.
This incident represented the first time the U.S. Navy reported killing Houthi fighters in response to the Red Sea attacks.
The Houthis, backed by Iran, have claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on ships in the Red Sea, attributing them to Israeli involvement or ships heading to Israeli ports.
Suspension of shipping by Maersk: security concerns
Following the two attacks on its freighter, Denmark-based shipping giant Maersk announced shipping suspension through the Red Sea.
Maersk cited the need to investigate the details of the incidents and assess the security situation further.
The attacks have prompted concerns about the safety of shipping routes in the region, leading to preventive measures by major shipping companies.
International response and coalition formation
The top commander of U.S. naval forces in the Middle East emphasized that Houthi rebels have shown no signs of ending their “reckless” attacks on commercial ships.
In response to these provocations, a new international coalition, including the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles, Spain, and the United States, was established to protect vessels traveling through the Red Sea.
Operation Prosperity Guardian aims to counter the ongoing attacks and ensure maritime traffic safety in this vital waterway.
Operation Prosperity Guardian: Safeguarding the Red Sea
Since the announcement of Operation Prosperity Guardian just over ten days ago, over 1,200 merchant ships have traveled through the Red Sea region without any reported drone or missile strikes.
Vice Adm. Brad Cooper noted that more nations are joining the international maritime mission to protect vessels, underscoring the ongoing challenges posed by Houthi attacks and the need for a coordinated and robust response.
The maritime conflict in the Red Sea has become a focal point for international efforts to ensure the safety of shipping routes amidst escalating provocations by Houthi rebels.
Coalition formation amidst shipping suspensions
The formation of a coalition and the suspension of shipping by major companies underscore the significance of addressing security concerns in this strategically vital waterway.
The situation remains dynamic, requiring continued vigilance and collaborative efforts to safeguard maritime interests in the region.