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Ship attacked by Yemen's Houthi rebels in fatal assault sinks in Red Sea

In this photo released by the Etat-Major des Armées, the MV Tutor sinks in the Red Sea after it was struck by a Houthi drone vessel, Wednesday, June 12, 2024.   -  
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A bulk carrier sank days after an attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels, who are believed to have killed one mariner on board, authorities said early Wednesday. It was the second ship sunk in the rebels' campaign targeting Red Sea shipping.

The sinking of the Tutor marks what appears to be a new escalation by the Iranian-backed Houthis in their campaign of attacks on ships in the vital maritime corridor over the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

The attack comes despite a monthslong U.S.-led campaign in the region that has seen the Navy face its most-intense maritime fighting since World War II, with near-daily attacks targeting commercial vessels and warship.

The Liberian-flagged, Greek-owned-and-operated Tutor sank in the Red Sea, the British military's United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center said in a warning to sailors in the region.

“Military authorities report maritime debris and oil sighted in the last reported location,” the UKMTO said. “The vessel is believed to have sunk.”

The Houthis late Wednesday released footage showing their attack on the Tutor, acknowledging they used two different drone boats to hit the vessel from both its side and the stern.

The U.S. military did not respond to requests for comment over the sinking.

The Tutor came under attack about a week ago by a bomb-carrying Houthi drone boat in the Red Sea. John Kirby, a White House national security spokesman, said on Monday that the attack killed “a crew member who hailed from the Philippines.” The Philippines has yet to acknowledge the death, but the man who had been aboard the Tutor has been missing for over a week in the Red Sea, which faces intense summertime heat.

The use of a boat loaded with explosives raised the specter of the attack in 2000 on the USS Cole, a suicide assault by al-Qaida when the warship was at port in the Yemeni city of Aden, killing 17 on board. The Cole is now part of a U.S. Navy operation in the Red Sea led by the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower to try and halt the Houthi attacks, though the rebels continue their assaults.

The Houthis have launched more than 60 attacks targeting specific vessels and fired off other missiles and drones in their campaign that has killed a total of four sailors. They've seized one vessel and sunk two since November. A U.S.-led airstrike campaign has targeted the Houthis since January, with a series of strikes May 30, killing at least 16 people and wounding 42 others, the rebels say.

In March, the Belize-flagged Rubymar carrying fertilizer cargo sank in the Red Sea after taking on water for days following a rebel attack.

The Houthis have maintained that their attacks target ships linked to Israel, the United States or Britain. However, many of the ships they've attacked have little or no connection to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

“It is deplorable that innocent seafarers are being attacked while simply performing their jobs, vital jobs which keep the world warm, fed, and clothed,” the shipping industry said in a joint statement Wednesday.

“This is an unacceptable situation, and these attacks must stop now,” it said.

The war in Gaza has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians there, while hundreds of others have been killed in Israeli operations in the West Bank. It began after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostage.

A recent report by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency said that container shipping through the Red Sea has declined by 90% since December because of the attacks. As much as 15% of the world's maritime traffic flows through that corridor.

Meanwhile, the Houthis said on Wednesday that U.S.-led airstrikes targeted Raymah, a province in Yemen under rebel control. The Houthi-controlled SABA news agency described a local radio station's building as being “totally destroyed” in the strikes. About a week earlier, the Houthis said similar strikes killed two people and wounded nine others, without saying if those hurt were fighters or civilians.

Later in the day, SABA also reported U.S.-led strikes targeting the port city of Hodeida.

The U.S. military's Central Command said in a statement early Thursday it destroyed “one ground control station and one command and control node in a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen” in the strikes. It also claimed destroying two Houthi drone boats in the Red Sea as well over the last 24 hours.

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