Houthi rebels sink cargo ship with missile

DUBAI, UAE – The Rubymar, a ship that fell victim to an attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, has found its final resting place at the bottom of the Red Sea, officials reported on Saturday. This marks the first casualty of a vessel in the ongoing battle over Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The sinking of the Rubymar has cast a shadow over the future of shipping through this vital waterway, a lifeline for cargo and energy shipments journeying from Asia and the Middle East to Europe. The Houthi’s aggressive tactics have already prompted a number of ships to reroute, and the recent sinking could exacerbate this trend, leading to increased insurance costs for vessels traversing the waterway and potentially fueling global inflation and interrupting aid shipments to the region.

Struck by a Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile on Feb. 18 in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a strategic waterway linking the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, the Belize-flagged Rubymar had been adrift, drifting northward. The sinking was confirmed by both Yemen’s internationally recognized government and a regional military official, who wished to remain anonymous.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center, responsible for overseeing Mideast waterways, separately confirmed the Rubymar’s sinking on Saturday afternoon. Attempts to reach the Rubymar’s Beirut-based manager for a comment were unsuccessful.

According to Yemen’s exiled government, which has received support from a Saudi-led coalition since 2015, the Rubymar met its fate late Friday as stormy weather swept over the Red Sea. The vessel had been left abandoned for 12 days following the attack, despite plans to tow it to safety.

The Iran-backed Houthis, who had previously inaccurately claimed the ship sank immediately after the attack, have yet to acknowledge the sinking. The U.S. military’s Central Command had issued a warning that the vessel’s cargo of fertilizer and fuel leakage from the ship could pose an ecological threat to the Red Sea.

Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak, the prime minister of Yemen’s internationally recognized government, has labeled the ship’s sinking as “an unprecedented environmental disaster.” The Houthis have held control over Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, since 2014 and have been locked in a stalemated war with a Saudi-led coalition since 2015.