Houthi Attack in the Gulf of Aden: Escalation and Impact

A Houthi ballistic missile attack on the M/V True Confidence, a commercial ship in the Gulf of Aden, resulted in at least two crew members' deaths and six others being injured. This marked the first time the Iran-backed group has killed anyone in their ongoing attacks on ships in the Red Sea. The ship has been abandoned, and coalition warships are assessing the situation.

The attack, occurring at 11:30 am Sana’a time, signifies a significant escalation of Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping, which began in October in response to Israel’s war in Gaza. The Houthis have launched over 45 missile and drone attacks against commercial, US, and coalition Naval vessels in the Red Sea, mostly intercepted by US or coalition destroyers or landing harmlessly in the water.

While no military vessels have been impacted by Houthi UAVs or missiles, more than a dozen commercial ships, including several US vessels, have been hit since October. The US and UK have conducted four rounds of strikes against Houthi targets inside Yemen since January, targeting weapons and missile storage facilities, air defense systems, and other key facilities.

Despite these efforts, the Biden administration has struggled to stop the attacks, with the group continuing to fortify its weapons stockpile inside Yemen. US Central Command forces regularly conduct strikes against Houthi missiles seen preparing to launch from inside Yemen. However, the US still lacks a comprehensive assessment of the percentage of Houthi equipment destroyed in airstrikes, raising questions about potential shifts in military strategy.

The Houthi attacks have had a significant impact on shipping in the region, leading to a massive drop in ships traveling through the Suez Canal. In the first half of February, the canal experienced a 42% drop in monthly transits and an 82% decrease in container tonnage from its peak in 2023, according to the United Nations.

The continued Houthi attacks and their impact on shipping highlight the ongoing challenges in the region and the complex dynamics at play.

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