On 13 December 2023, members of the Yemen-based Houthi rebel group fired two missiles and a drone toward a Marshall Islands-flagged commercial tanker during a failed attempt to board the Motor Vessel Ardmore Encounter near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait in the southern Red Sea. USS Mason — a U.S. Navy destroyer — downed the drone, while the two missiles missed the vessel. No injuries were reported as a result of the attack, and there was no damage to the vessel.
Analyst Comment: Houthi militants have been perpetrating attacks on vessels near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and in the Red Sea after declaring war on Israel amid the Israeli ground invasion and bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip. While the Houthi’s original stated intent was to assault Israeli vessels, the campaign appears to have expanded to include all vessels near the strait. On 11 December, a Houthi missile struck the Norwegian-flagged tanker MT STRINDA, causing a fire, while Houthi ballistic missiles struck three commercial ships the previous day. These events followed the Houthi seizure of the Bahamas-flagged Galaxy Leader cargo vessel — owned by an Israeli businessman — and the abduction of its crew on 19 November.