The Saudi military confirmed at least two of its sailors were killed and three were injured in an attack claimed by Houthi rebels against an al-Madinah class frigate off western Yemen. The attacked occurred on 30 January in position 14:49.09N – 042:21.8E, 48 km west of the Houthi-controlled port of Hodeidah. There are conflicting reports about the nature of the attack. Houthi rebels claim to have struck the vessel with a guided anti-ship missile, however, the Saudi military has said the warship was targeted by three small suicide boats, one of which collided with the frigate. Although a video filmed by Houthi forces purports to show the incident, details around the attack have not yet been verified independently. The Saudi military said that the crew extinguished the fire and that the vessel continued its duties.
The attack on the warship came amid an intensification of military activity in western Yemen, which could signal a heightened risk to vessels in the region. In January, loyalist forces backed by the Saudi-led military alliance, launched an offensive to clear Houthi forces from western Yemen in a bid to deny them maritime access. The warship attack was the most recent of a series of incidents in which vessels have been targeted off Yemen. In October 2016, a UAE vessel was badly damaged by an anti-ship missile and weeks later the US launched retaliatory strikes on Houthi radar sites after several American warships were unsuccessfully targeted by rebels. Commercial vessels are also vulnerable to armed groups active off Yemen, as demonstrated by a rocket-propelled grenade in October 2016 against an LNG vessel in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.
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