Houthi-fired missile hits U.S.-owned container ship in Red Sea

A handout photo made available by Houthi officials on Saturday shows a projectile being launched during a military exercise near the Yemen-Saudi Arabia border on Thursday. U.S. military officials said a U.S.-owned ship was attacked by Houthi forces in the Red Sea on Monday. Photo by Houthis Media Center/EPA-EFE

Jan. 15 (UPI) -- A U.S.-owned and operated container ship sailing the Red Sea on Monday was hit by an anti-ship ballistic missile fired from Yemen by Iran-backed Houthi forces, U.S. military officials said.

U.S. Central Command said in a statement the containership M/V Gibraltar Eagle, flying the flag of the Marshall Islands, was hit by fire from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.

"The ship has reported no injuries or significant damage and is continuing its journey," CENTCOM said, adding that it had also detected the failed launch of another anti-ship fired toward the Red Sea commercial shipping lanes earlier on Monday.

The British Maritime Trade Operations Authority said in a memorandum the attack occurred 95 nautical miles southeast of the coast of the Yemeni city of Aden. The agency said the missile hit the port, or left, side of the ship from above.

Monday's incident in the Red Sea served to ratchet up regional tensions even further after U.S. fighter jets on Sunday intercepted an anti-ship cruise missile fired by Houthis at a U.S. destroyer in the Red Sea.

No injuries or damage was reported in that incident.

Shortly after the latest attack, Houthi spokesman Nasruldeen Amer declared the group is expanding its efforts to destabilize the vital shipping lanes by targeting American ships as means of supporting the Palestinian militant group Hamas in its war against Israel.

The United States is "on the verge of losing its maritime security," he told Al Jazeera.

The latest developments come after the United States and Britain last week conducted large-scale air strikes targeting the Houthi rebels in Yemen over their continued attacks on shipping vessels transiting the important trade route.

The Houthis originally vowed to attack Israel-bound ships, however the latest attacks demonstrate they have apparently now expanded their targeting to include American vessels.

Ali al-Qahoum, a top political leader of Yemen's Houthi movement, declared the United States had opened "the doors of the hell to itself" with its strikes on Yemen.

In comments to Iran's official IRNA news agency on Monday, he said Yemen would turn into "the graveyard of the Americans."