A missile strike damaged a merchant ship in the Red Sea off Yemen, marine security monitors said on Friday, as the country’s Iran-backed Houthis threatened to expand their months-long harassment campaign which disrupted global trade.

The crew was not injured and the vessel continued its journey, said the United Kingdom Marine Trade Operation and security firm Ambrey, after the incident took place west of the rebel-held port of Hodeida in the early hours of Friday.

“A merchant vessel has reported that they have been struck by a missile and the vessel has sustained some damage,” said UKMTO.

Ambrey said that the “vessel was listed as Israel-affiliated but had changed ownership in February 2024,” adding that it was headed from Singapore to the Suez Canal with armed guards onboard.

The same tanker was nearly hit by a missile southeast of Yemen’s port of Aden the previous day, Ambrey said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility from the Houthis, who have launched dozens of missile and drone strikes on shipping in the commercially vital seaway over the past four months.

The Houthis say that they are targeting Israel-linked shipping as part of an “axis of resistance” of Iran allies and proxies, in protest against Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The attacks, including a deadly assault on a bulk carrier last week and the sinking of a ship carrying thousands of tons of fertilizer, triggered reprisal strikes by US and British forces.

On Thursday, the US military said that it had destroyed nine anti-ship ballistic missiles and two drones after the Houthis fired on ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

Such exchanges have become a frequent occurrence in the area, sending shipping insurance costs soaring and prompting many firms to detour around the southern tip of Africa.

Late on Thursday, rebel leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi said that the Houthis would expand their attacks to ships taking the longer route around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope.

With AFP