US says it seized Iranian weapons bound for Houthis as attacks continue

Iran-made weapons including missile components were seized last month, Centcom says

An image released by Centcom of what it says was an Iranian weapons shipment destined for Yemen's Houthi rebels. Centcom / AFP
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US Central Command said on Thursday that it seized a weapons shipment from Iran last month that had been destined for Yemen's Houthi rebels, who have been attacking international shipping in the Red Sea.

Within hours of the announcement, an explosion was reported near a vessel off the coast of Yemen, further underscoring how the continuing US-led action against the Iran-backed militants appears to be having little deterrent effect.

In a statement, Centcom said a US Coastguard cutter under its command seized “advanced” conventional weapons and other lethal aid originating in Iran and bound for Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen from a vessel in the Arabian Sea on January 28.

The shipment contained more than 200 packages loaded with missile components, explosives and other devices including anti-tank guided missile launcher assemblies, Centcom said.

“This is yet another example of Iran's malign activity in the region,” Centcom head Gen Michael Erik Kurilla said.

“Their continued supply of advanced conventional weapons to the Houthis is in direct violation of international law and continues to undermine the safety of international shipping and the free flow of commerce.”

The Houthis have been targeting international shipping in the Red Sea with missiles and drones since shortly after the Israel-Hamas war began.

The rebels claim they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians by targeting ships with connections to Israel.

But the US and Israel say says many of the ships targeted have no Israeli ties.

Since January 11, the US and UK have struck Houthi military infrastructure in Yemen and the US has conducted dozens of “self-defence” strikes against missiles being readied for launch.

Pentagon Press Secretary Maj Gen Pat Ryder said the US assesses that “some” Houthi capabilities have been degraded through these strikes.

“We're going to continue working closely with the international community to help degrade and disrupt their ability to conduct these attacks,” he told reporters.

“The Houthis have to ask themselves, what price are they willing to pay to take on the international community?”

So far, the price for the Houthis seems to be one they are happy to keep paying.

A bulk carrier suffered minor damage on Thursday after being targeted by an explosive projectile some 100 nautical miles east of the Yemeni port city of Aden, British maritime security firm Ambrey said.

The damage was caused by shrapnel that caused a diesel leak, Ambrey said in its advisory note. The crew members were unharmed, it added.

Separately, the UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency said it had received a report of an explosion near a vessel some 85 nautical miles east of Aden.

Centcom said an anti-ship ballistic missile was launched from Houthi-controlled areas into the Gulf of Aden, adding that there were no reports of casualties or damage from ships in the area.

In a speech on Thursday, the leader of the Yemeni rebels, Abdul Malik Al Houthi, accused the US of launching around 40 strikes this week, most of them on the coastal city of Hodeida.

He said such retaliatory attacks would fail to deter his forces from striking vessels if a ceasefire in Gaza is not reached.

In addition, he warned the European Union against being drawn into the confrontation after member states last month gave initial backing to a naval mission to protect ships from attacks.

Updated: February 15, 2024, 9:27 PM