Home iran Iran-Backed Houthis Resume Attacks, Hitting Oil Tanker

Iran-Backed Houthis Resume Attacks, Hitting Oil Tanker


Houthis struck a British crude oil tanker off the coast of Yemen Friday, raising concerns that the group backed by Iran may be resuming their attacks after weeks of relative calm in the Red Sea.

The Houthi attack on the oil tanker, Andromeda Sta, came on the same day as they shot down an American MQ-9 “Reaper” surveillance drone over northwestern Yemen, signaling that a new Houthi offensive may well be under way.

The Andromeda Star was struck by at least 3 anti-ship missiles, with two having hit the ship. The vessel has reported “minor damage, but is continuing its voyage,” according to US Central Command. “There are no injuries or other damage reported by U.S., coalition, or commercial ships at this time.”

It’s unclear if these operations have any connections to the recent face-off between Iran and Israel. The Houthis have been attacking commercial vessels in the Red Sea since November last year, claiming support for Palestinians in Gaza. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called on Muslims in early November to blockade Israeli trade.

This is not the first time the Houthis have targeted an oil tanker. They did so in mid-February, without causing major damage.

The attack Friday comes after a few weeks of critically heightened tension between Israel and Iran, in which both countries directly attacked the other’s territory. With that conflict settled (for now), it is more likely, military experts say, that Israel would attack Hezbollah in Lebanon or begin its ground invasion of Rafah. The Houthis may have to be understood against this backdrop.

The group’s military spokesman, Yahya Sarea, delivered a televised statement early hours of Saturday local time, taking responsibility for a “direct hit” on Andromeda as well as the downing of a US drone.

The US (alongside the UK) have carried out several attacks on Houthi targets within Yemen. The Houthis have declared that they will attack any vessel that they believe is linked to the US, UK and Israel.

Many of the largest shipping companies in the world have decided to avoid the Red Sea (and the Suez Canal) for safety reasons. The Houthis say their action is targeted against Israel and its allies, but cases have been reported where the targeted vessel has had no meaningful connection to those countries.

Global risk management firm Ambry has advised ship owners and operators to check their affiliation before venturing into the Red Sea “as the Houthis may associate vessels with out-of-date affiliations” –as seems to be the case with regards to Andromeda, which had been owned by the UK until November 2023.

Its current owner is Seychelles-registered. The ship had set off from Russia and was heading towards India when it was attacked by Houthis using Iranian missiles.