A ballistic missile fired from a rebel-held territory in Yemen struck a cargo ship in the Red Sea on Friday, setting the vessel ablaze, a U.S. defense official said.
The official identified the vessel as the Liberian-flagged MSC Palatium III and said the incident happened near the strategic Bab el-Mandeb Strait. It is unclear if anyone was hurt in the attack.
The private intelligence firm Ambrey also confirmed the attack. “The projectile reportedly hit the port side of the vessel and one container fell overboard due to the impact,” Ambrey said. “The projectile caused a ‘fire on deck’ which was broadcast via” radio.
The missile was apparently targeting Al Jasrah, another cargo ship struck by a projectile earlier Friday.
The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen did not immediately acknowledge the attack on Al Jasrah.
The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which monitors Mideast shipping lanes, also acknowledged the attack, warning vessels to exercise caution.
The UKMTO said there had been no reported casualties from the missile or the subsequent fire.
Al Jasrah is operated by German-based shipper Hapag-Lloyd, which said no crew member had been hurt in the attack. “Hapag-Lloyd will take additional measures to secure the safety of our crews,” the company said, without elaborating.
The attacks come as Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for a series of missile assaults in recent days that have struck or narrowly missed ships in the Red Sea and its strategic Bab el-Mandeb Strait.
Houthi rebels have increasingly targeted global shipping lanes as the Israel-Hamas war threatens to become a wider regional conflict and as continued violence across the Gaza Strip is primarily affecting Palestinian civilians.
The ships targeted in the rebel assaults have not all been linked to Israel or Israeli ownership. However, the Hapag-Lloyd “is known to have offices in the Israeli ports of Ashdod, Haifa and Tel Aviv,” Ambrey said.
On Thursday, the Houthis fired a ballistic missile that missed a container ship traveling through the strait.
The day before that, two missiles fired from Houthi-held territory were fired at but missed a commercial tanker loaded near the key Bab el-Mandeb Strait. Also near the strait, a missile fired by Houthis on Monday night slammed into a Norwegian-flagged tanker in the Red Sea.
Nearly 10% of all oil traded at sea passes through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which is only 18 miles wide at its narrowest point, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. An estimated $1 trillion in goods pass through the strait annually.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.