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The Houthis, a group of armed rebels based in Yemen and backed by Iran, claimed responsibility for a new missile attack on a British oil tanker amid Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza, Al Jazeera reported. The targeted vessel, identified by the United States as a Panamanian-flagged tanker carrying crude oil bound for India, faced a barrage of naval missiles on the Red Sea.

Yahya Saree, the group’s military spokesperson, said in a televised statement on Saturday that a “large number of appropriate naval missiles” were used to target the Pollux tanker in the Red Sea in “accurate and direct” hits, Al Jazeera reported.

“The Yemeni armed forces will not hesitate to implement and expand their military operations in defence of beloved Yemen and in confirmation of continued practical solidarity with the Palestinian people,” he said.

The extent of damage to the tanker was not disclosed in the statement.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) confirmed the incident late on Friday, reporting that an attack took place on the Pollux, about 70 nautical miles northwest of al-Mukha, a port city southwest of Sanaa.

The vessel reported an explosion in close proximity to a missile strike, but the crew and the tanker were deemed safe, and military authorities were responding, according to the report.

The US State Department identified the targeted vessel as the Pollux, a Panamanian-flagged oil tanker en route to India, affirming that it was struck on its port side by a missile fired from Yemen.

The Houthi attacks on Red Sea trade routes began in mid-November, with the group linking the disruptions to its demand for an end to Israel’s offensive in Gaza and the delivery of aid to Palestinians under siege.

Amid these developments, British Foreign Minister David Cameron engaged with China, urging Beijing to leverage its influence on Iran to pressure the Houthi rebels. This appeal took place during the Munich Security Conference, emphasizing the international concern over the escalating situation.

In a statement, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said, “On Feb 15, at approximately 4:30 pm, an anti-ship ballistic missile was launched from Houthi controlled areas of Yemen into the Gulf of Aden. The missile was headed toward MV Lycavitos, a Barbados-flagged, UK-owned and operated bulk carrier. The ship reported no injuries but very minor damage in the attack and continued its voyage.”

“Additionally, between the hours of 3:10 pm – 8 pm (Sanaa time), CENTCOM forces successfully conducted two self-defence strike against three mobile anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM) in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen that were prepared to launch against ships in the Red Sea,” it added.

“Houthi assaults on maritime targets have expanded to include warships and vessels from the US and the UK following their involvement in bombing multiple governorates across Yemen earlier in the year. The US Central Command (CENTCOM) has characterized its attacks on Houthi positions as self-defence strikes including recent strikes on mobile anti-ship cruise missiles in the Red Sea,” the statement read further.

As the conflict intensifies, the US is set to send additional bombs and weapons to Israel, despite expressing opposition to Tel Aviv’s plans for a ground invasion in Rafah, southern Gaza, where a significant number of Palestinians have been forcibly displaced, Al Jazeera reported.