Yemen's Houthis claim attack on Norwegian tanker

By Phil Stewart and Nadine Awadalla

DUBAI, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthis said on Tuesday they carried out a military operation against the Norwegian commercial tanker STRINDA in its latest operation to protest against Israel's bombardment of Gaza.

The group targeted the tanker with a rocket after the crew refused to respond to all warnings, Houthi military spokesperson Yehia Sareea said in a televised statement.

He vowed that the Houthis would continue blocking ships heading to Israeli ports until Israel allows the entry of food and medical aid into the Gaza Strip - more than 1,000 miles from the Houthi seat of power in Sanaa.

The attack on the tanker STRINDA took place about 60 nautical miles (111km) north of the Bab al-Mandab Strait connecting the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden at about 2100 GMT, a U.S. official told Reuters. A second U.S. official said the STRINDA was able to move under its own power in the hours after the attack.

The attack caused a fire and damage but no casualties, the U.S. military said in a statement.

The Houthi spokesman said that the group had managed to obstruct the passage of several ships in recent days, acting in support of the Palestinians.

The chemical tanker is now headed for a safe port, the ship's Norwegian owner, Mowinckel Chemical Tankers, told Reuters. The STRINDA tanker's crew of 22 from India are all unhurt, Mowinckel Chair Geir Belsnes said.

The Houthis have waded into the Israel-Hamas conflict - which has spread around the Middle East since Oct. 7 - attacking vessels in vital shipping lanes and firing drones and missiles at Israel itself.

On Saturday, the Houthis said they would target all ships heading to Israel, regardless of their nationality, and warned international shipping companies against dealing with Israeli ports.

The chemical tanker is Norway flagged, and its Norwegian owner, Mowinckel Chemical Tankers, and manager Hansa Tankers could not be immediately reached for comment outside office hours.

The STRINDA had loaded vegetable oil and biofuels in Malaysia and was headed for Venice, Italy, data from shiptracking firm Kpler showed.

It was not immediately clear whether the STRINDA had any ties to Israel.

The group, which rules much of Yemen, says its attacks are a show of support for the Palestinians and has vowed they will continue until Israel stops its offensive on the Gaza Strip - more than 1,000 miles from the Houthi seat of power in Sanaa.

The Houthis are one of several groups in the Iran-aligned "Axis of Resistance" that have been taking aim at Israeli and U.S. targets since their Palestinian ally Hamas attacked Israel.

During the first week of December, three commercial vessels came under attack in international waters, prompting a U.S. Navy destroyer to intervene.

The Houthis also seized last month a British-owned cargo ship that had links with an Israeli company.

The United States and Britain have condemned the attacks on shipping, blaming Iran for its role in supporting the Houthis. Tehran says its allies make their decisions independently.

Saudi Arabia has asked the United States to show restraint in responding to the attacks.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; additional reporting by Trixie Yap, Florence Tan and Terje Solsvik; Editing by Tom Hogue, Gerry Doyle and Lincoln Feast and Michael Georgy)

((phillip.stewart@thomsonreuters.com; 1-202-898-8398; Reuters Messaging: phillip.stewart.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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