Houthis vow to target more British ships after Rubymar sinks in Gulf

The British-registered cargo ship Rubymar sinking
The British-registered cargo ship Rubymar was carrying fertiliser when it was attacked in February 2024 - Mohammed Hamoud/Al-Joumhouriah via Getty Images

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis vowed on Sunday to continue targeting British ships in the Gulf of Aden following the sinking of a UK-owned vessel.

“Yemen will continue to sink more British ships, and any repercussions or other damages will be added to Britain’s bill,” Hussein al-Ezzi, deputy foreign minister in the Houthi-led government, said in a post on X.

“It is a rogue state that attacks Yemen and partners with America in sponsoring ongoing crimes against civilians in Gaza.”

Rubymar was carrying a cargo of fertiliser when it came under attack on Feb 18 2024. It finally sunk over the weekend after days of taking on water, with the ship’s crew having already evacuated. It is the first vessel to be fully destroyed as part of the Houthis’ campaign, which it says is driven by Israel’s war against Hamas.

Houthi militants have repeatedly launched drones and missiles against international commercial vessels since mid-November 2023, saying they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians.

Their Red Sea attacks have disrupted global shipping, forcing firms to re-route to longer and more expensive journeys around southern Africa, and stoking fears that the Israel-Hamas war could spread to destabilise the wider Middle East.

Further detours and higher insurance

The sinking could see further detours and higher insurance rates put on vessels travelling the waterway, potentially driving up global inflation and affecting aid shipments to the region.

Greenpeace also warned of the environmental risk posed by the 21,000 metric tons of fertiliser that the vessel was carrying, which could “disrupt the balance of the marine ecosystems, triggering cascading effects throughout the food web”.

Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, the prime minister of Yemen’s internationally recognised government, called the ship’s sinking “an unprecedented environmental disaster”.

“It’s a new disaster for our country and our people,” he wrote on X. “Every day, we pay for the Houthi militia’s adventures, which were not stopped at plunging Yemen into the coup disaster and war.”

The Houthis have held Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, since 2014. With the internationally recognised government expelled, the rebels have since been fighting a Saudi-led coalition backed by the US and UK in a stalemated war.

The armed political and religious group champions Yemen’s Shia Muslim minority and declares itself to be part of the Iranian-led “axis of resistance” against Israel and the West, along with groups including Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

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