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Reckless Behavior by Iran-Backed Houthis Threatens Regional Stability

The continued reckless behavior by Iran-backed Houthis threatens regional stability and endangers the lives of mariners across the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, said Sabrina Singh, deputy Pentagon press secretary, during a news conference today.

A large ship launches missiles.
Missile Launch
A Navy ship launches missiles in the Red Sea, Feb. 3, 2024.
Photo By: U.S. Central Command
VIRIN: 240203-D-D0439-001

A jet prepares to take off.
F-18 Launch
An F-18 takes off from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower to strike Houthi targets in Yemen, Feb. 3, 2024.
Photo By: U.S. Central Command
VIRIN: 240203-D-D0439-002

The Houthis claim to be acting on behalf of Palestinians in Gaza, and yet, they're threatening the lives of those who have nothing to do with the conflict, she said. 

Last week, the Yemen-based Houthis struck two cargo ships: the M/V Tutor, which is Liberian flagged and Greek owned, and the M/V Verbena, which is Palauan flagged, Ukrainian owned and Polish operated. 

The June 12 attack on the Tutor resulted in severe flooding and damage to the engine room. One civilian mariner remains missing following the attack, Singh said. 

On June 14, the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea responded to distress calls from the Tutor. Aircraft from the cruiser and partner forces helped evacuate all personnel from the vessel. This operation took place in the Red Sea and within range of Houthi weapons, making it a risky and complex operation, she said. 

Iranian, Russian and Chinese naval vessels were among the ships within response distance that did nothing to assist the Tutor, Singh noted.

The Tutor remains in the Red Sea and is slowly taking on water while awaiting recovery by salvage vessels, she added. 

The June 13 attack on the Verbena resulted in fires onboard. One civilian mariner was medically evacuated by aircraft from the Philippine Sea to a partner nation's ship for medical treatment, she said. 

On June 15, the crew of the Verbena issued a distress call, but was forced to abandon ship. They were then rescued by the M/V Anna Meta, which was in the vicinity. At the time, an Iranian frigate was 8 nautical miles away from the Verbena and did not respond to the distress call, Singh said. 

The Verbena is no longer on fire and is being towed toward a nearby port, she added. 

Since Nov. 19, the Houthis have launched about 190 attacks. Only a handful have been successful, which speaks to the effectiveness of coalition forces at stopping the attacks, she said. 

Also on June 14, U.S. Central Command removed the temporary pier from the Gaza shoreline, due to heavy seas; it was towed back to Ashdod, Israel. The pier will most likely be re-anchored later this week in Gaza when the sea state subsides, Singh said.

The U.S. is working with the international community to get aid into Gaza as quickly as possible. Since the pier was anchored on May 17, over 3,500 metric tons of aid have been delivered to Gaza by humanitarian organizations, she said.

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