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Crew Abandons Cargo Ship Hit by Houthi Missile in Red Sea

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FILE - Cargo ship Rubymar, carrying Ukrainian grain at the time, is seen in this picture at the entrance of Bosphorus, in the Black Sea off the coast off Kumkoy, north of Istanbul, on Nov. 2, 2022.
FILE - Cargo ship Rubymar, carrying Ukrainian grain at the time, is seen in this picture at the entrance of Bosphorus, in the Black Sea off the coast off Kumkoy, north of Istanbul, on Nov. 2, 2022.

The crew of a cargo ship in the Red Sea was forced to abandon ship Monday night after the Houthi militia hit it with a ballistic missile fired from Yemen, the U.S. military said.

The Iranian-backed Houthis have fired dozens of missiles for weeks at passing ships without inflicting much damage or often missing their targets, an effort aimed at trying to force Israel to abandon its war against Hamas militants in Gaza.

But the latest attack was one of the most serious.

The U.S. military's Central Command said one missile struck the Rubymar, "causing damage" and prompting the crew to issue a distress call. The Rubymar was sailing under a Belize flag, but its registered owner is based in Britain.

The Central Command said one of its warships and another merchant ship responded to the call, with the merchant vessel taking the crew to a nearby port.

Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said in a statement that the militia had fired "a number of missiles" at the Rubymar, severely damaging it, bringing it to a "complete halt" and leaving it "at risk of sinking."

The Houthis initially said weeks ago they were attacking ships owned by Israelis or sailing to and from Israeli ports, but they since have targeted ships unrelated to Israel and going to other destinations.

The U.S. and Britain started retaliating with airstrikes on Houthi missile sites in early January, but it has not stopped the militants from firing at passing ships.

The Houthi attacks have disrupted global shipping in the region, with some carriers now avoiding the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, a key passage to the Suez Canal. Instead, some cargo companies are sending their vessels an extra 6,400 kilometers around Africa, inflating the cost of shipping and adding about 10 days of travel time in each direction.

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