On Wednesday, the small Iranian freighter Jouya 8 was struck by a rocket while operating off the coast of Yemen. Reports indicate that one crewmember is confirmed dead, one survived to reach shore and six are still missing.
“[Crewmember] Kabir Khadim survived somehow by jumping off the ship and swimming to the Hodeidah port,” said Pakistani human rights activist Ansar Burney in a statement. It was not possible to independently confirm Burney’s report, and it is not yet known whether the rocket strike was intentional.
The attack on the Jouya 8 is the second report of an attack on a vessel off Yemen this month. Yemeni media report that on December 4, a Saudi air strike hit a vessel with 12 Pakistani crewmembers aboard, killing six and leaving the others missing.
In addition, a series of anti-ship missile attacks near the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb has raised new security concerns for shipping. The first strike, originating in suspected Houthi-controled areas of Yemen’s Red Sea coast, destroyed a former U.S. Navy transport on September 30. On October 9, two missile launches originating in the same region caused the destroyer USS Mason to use defensive measures to protect herself and the nearby afloat base USS Ponce. Three days later, the destroyer USS Nitze launched Tomahawk cruise missiles to destroy three land-based radar sites which the U.S. military believed to be active during the attacks.
Yemen’s civil war has become a proxy conflict between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, with heavy casualties for civilians caught in between. Saudi-led forces are engaged in a campaign to drive a coalition of Houthi rebels and ex-government forces out of Yemen’s Red Sea coastal region, but with backing and arms from Iran, the Houthi militants have resisted forcefully, and they retain control of most of the northwest corner of the country.