Saudi Arabia said Monday that Iran-backed Houthi rebels attacked one of its frigates off the coast of Yemen, killing two crew members and wounding three.
According to the official Saudi Press Agency, the Saudi vessel was rammed by one of three gunboats that attacked it near the Yemeni port of Hodeida, the Associated Press reported. The Houthis disputed this account, claiming that the frigate was hit by a rocket that they launched, which sparked a fire on the ship.
In a clip broadcast on a Houthi-controlled television station, an explosion is seen on the distant frigate, followed by a voice shouting the Houthi’s trademark chant in Arabic: “Allahu akbar (God is greatest), death to America, death to Israel, a curse on the Jews and victory for Islam.”
According to the Saudis, the fire on the ship was quickly extinguished and a coalition craft was deployed to chase the Houthi gunboats.
U.S. intelligence officials reported told Fox News on Monday that the intended target of the attack may have been an American warship.
The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has been fighting since March 2015 to restore the internationally-recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, a U.S. counter-terrorism partner. He was ousted after the Houthis, a longtime Zaydi Shiite insurgency in the north of Yemen, captured the Yemeni capital Sana’a earlier that year. Since then, the coalition has mostly pushed the Houthis out of southern Yemen.
The United Nations has identified Yemen as a “humanitarian crisis,” reporting that more than 10,000 people, including 3,800 civilians, were killed between March 2015 and August 2016.
In October of last year, a Houthi rocket damaged a ship belonging to the UAE, which is part of the Saudi coalition. A few days later, Houthis fired missiles at an American ship and missed their target.
Iranian shipments of weapons to the Houthis have been repeatedly intercepted by U.S. naval forces. The shipments included thousands of rifles, RPGs, anti-tank missiles, and other light and medium arms. Iran has openly admitted its support for the Houthis, and in early March 2015, Lebanon’s NOW Media reported that Houthi fighters were receiving training in Syria on behalf of Iran. Two weeks ago, a Houthi commander reportedly acknowledged that Iran and its proxy, the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, were training rebels in Yemen.
[Photo: Abbas Al-Mutawakel / YouTube ]