Suspected Houthi drone strike in Red Sea damages China-bound ship

A Liberia-flagged container ship was damaged in an aerial drone strike allegedly carried out by the Houthis in the Red Sea, in the latest attack by the Yemini group targeting the vital maritime corridor.

The attack on the China-bound vessel took place off the coast of Hodeida city around dawn on Sunday, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations centre, led by the British navy, said. It said the ship sustained damage but the mariners on board "were reported safe". It did not elaborate on the extent of the damage, but said an investigation was ongoing.

The strike came after aircraft carrier USS Dwight D Eisenhower left for home following an eight-month deployment leading the American response to the Houthi attacks. The carrier will be replaced by USS Theodore Roosevelt, which is expected to arrive after a scheduled exercise in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Houthis have been targeting ships associated with Israel in the Red Sea since the start of the war in Gaza.

They claim the attacks are aimed at stopping the war by extracting an economic price from Israel and its Western allies.

The attacks have led to a drastic reduction in shipping through the route crucial to Asian, Middle Eastern and European markets in a campaign the Houthis say will go on as long as Israel continues with its assault on Gaza.

The Houthis have launched more than 60 attacks targeting cargo vessels so far, killing at least four sailors, and fired missiles and drones at Western warships sent to deter them. They have seized a vessel and sunk two since November.

A campaign of airstrikes led by the US military has targeted the Houthis since January, with the latest round of strikes on 30 May killing at least 16 people and wounding over 40, but it has failed to stop the attacks.

Two days before they allegedly hit the China-bound ship, the Houthis targeted a commercial vessel in the Gulf of Aden with anti-ship ballistic missiles but caused no damage.

The vessel reported two explosions off its port side and a third one later, the Joint Maritime Information Centre led by the US said.

The US Central Command on Saturday said its forces destroyed three Houthi uncrewed surface vessels in the Red Sea.

Additional reporting by agencies.