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AL-MUKALLA: Thursday’s drone attack on a ship off the Yemeni Red Sea port of Hodeidah is believed to be the latest in a series of attacks by Houthi militias on commercial vessels on a key trade route.

British Maritime Merchant Operations, or UKMTO, said it had been informed of the incident, which occurred 83 nautical miles southwest of Hodeidah, and asked ships operating in the Red Sea to exercise caution and report any suspicious activity.

“The reported nature of the attack is that of a waterborne improvised explosive device,” the UKMTO said in its notice.

It was not detailed, but the Houthis have previously used small drone boats packed with explosives to attack ships.

The UKMTO reported that the ship and crew were determined to be safe and sound, and the ship was on its way to its next port of call.

Ambrey, Britain’s maritime safety service, reported that the merchant ship was hit by a missile 84 nautical miles west of Al-Hudaida. No casualties or damage were reported and the ship continued to Dammam.

The attack in the Red Sea came a day after another merchant ship in the Gulf of Aden narrowly avoided a Houthi missile.

The militia did not admit to carrying out both attacks.

However, spokesman Yahya Sarea said on Wednesday evening that the Houthis and the Iraqi group carried out a joint drone attack on the merchant ship MSC Manzanillo in the Israeli port of Haifa.

According to marinetraffic.com, a maritime traffic monitoring website, MSC Manzanillo is a container ship flying the flag of Portugal.

Since November, the Houthis have seized a merchant ship, sunk two others and fired hundreds of drones, ballistic missiles and naval drones at commercial and maritime vessels in international shipping arteries, saying their actions are in support of the Palestinian people against Israel’s war in Gaza.

The Houthis have stepped up their attacks this month, attacking ships almost daily and sometimes announcing new attacks twice a day.

U.S. Central Command said Thursday that its forces destroyed a radar facility in the Houthi-controlled region of Yemen in the past 24 hours.

The United States responded to the Houthi attacks by gathering naval task forces in the Red Sea, labeling the militia as terrorists and initiating attacks on Houthi facilities in Yemen.

The Houthis, however, say that neither the attacks nor their designation as terrorists have weakened their military potential and that they will only cease attacks when Israel ends the war in Gaza.

In a televised speech on Thursday, Houthi leader Abdul Malik Al-Houthi boasted that he had used more destructive weapons in his attacks, including long-range missiles and drone boats packed with explosives, and said that the US and British attacks had only strengthened the militia.

“American and British hostility towards our nation has led to further development of our military capabilities,” he said.

Meanwhile, the central bank in Aden on Wednesday banned local currency exchange companies and banks from working with 12 unlicensed entities that offer wallets and electronic payment services in Houthi-controlled territories, including Wallet Electronic Riyal, Cash Wallet and Yemen Wallet.

The central bank also suspended all internal transfer systems between local banks, foreign exchange companies and financial institutions, ordering financial institutions to use the Unified Network for Money, UNMoney, which it controls, and giving 15 days to halt pending transfers or impose sanctions.

Economists believe the two actions target the Houthi’s funding sources while giving the bank greater influence over the country’s volatile currency markets.

“This move could be as significant or more significant than moving banks to Aden, as the Houthis rely heavily on informal transfer and exchange networks in areas under their control,” Mustafa Nasr, director of the Center for Economic Studies and Media, told Arab News.

The central bank in Aden recently imposed sanctions on six Yemeni banks for failing to comply with an order to relocate their headquarters from Houthi-controlled Sanaa to government-controlled Aden.

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