By Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Ahmed Elimam

COPENHAGEN/DUBAI/CAIRO (Reuters) -U.S. helicopters repelled an assault by Iran-backed Houthi militants on a Maersk container vessel within the Purple Sea, sinking three ships and killing 10 militants, based on accounts by American, Maersk, and Houthi officers on Sunday.

The naval battle occurred round 0330 GMT on Sunday because the attackers sought to board the Singapore-flagged Maersk Hangzhou, Maersk and U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) stated. Helicopters from the usEisenhower and USS Gravely joined the ship’s safety workforce in repelling the attackers after receiving a misery name, CENTCOM stated.

Maersk stated it was pausing all crusing via the Purple Sea for 48 hours after the assault.

A spokesman for the Houthis stated the group carried out the assault as a result of the ship’s crew refused to heed warning calls. He stated 10 Houthi naval personnel had been “useless and lacking” after their boats had been attacked by U.S. forces within the Purple Sea.

The naval battle underlines the chance of a regional escalation in preventing as Israel continues with its relentless bombing marketing campaign following a Hamas shock cross-border assault on Israeli cities on Oct. 7 that left 1,200 useless, and took 240 hostages. Israel’s air and artillery bombardment has killed greater than 21,800 folks, based on Gazan well being authorities.

Yemen’s Houthis have been focusing on vessels within the Purple Sea since November to indicate their help for Hamas, prompting main delivery firms to take the longer and costlier route across the Africa’s Cape of Good Hope quite than via the Suez Canal.

The Purple Sea is the entry level for ships utilizing the Suez Canal, which handles about 12% of world commerce and important for the motion of products between Asia and Europe.

The US launched Operation Prosperity Guardian on Dec. 19, saying greater than 20 nations had agreed to take part within the efforts to safeguard ships in Purple Sea waters close to Yemen.

Maersk, one of many world’s high cargo shippers, stated on Dec. 24 it will resume crusing via the Purple Sea. Nevertheless, assaults have continued and U.S. allies have confirmed reluctant to decide to the coalition, with almost half not declaring their presence publicly.

The botched Houthi boarding operation was the second assault on the Maersk Hangzhou in as many days. The ship, which is carrying 14,000 containers en route from Singapore, was on Saturday hit by a missile about 55 nautical miles southwest of Al Hodeidah, Yemen.

The delivery firm added that the crew of the Maersk Hangzhou crew was protected and there was no indication of fireside onboard the vessel, which continued its journey north towards the Suez Canal.

White Home nationwide safety spokesperson John Kirby declined to say what choices the U.S. is contemplating when requested on ABC’s “Good Morning America” if Washington would contemplate a preemptive strike on the Houthis.

“We’ve made it clear publicly to the Houthis, we have made it clear privately to our allies and companions within the area, that we take these threats severely.”

Writing within the Every day Telegraph newspaper, British Defence Secretary Grant Shapps stated: “We’re prepared to take direct motion, and we gained’t hesitate to take additional motion to discourage threats to freedom of navigation within the Purple Sea.”

“The Houthis must be beneath no misunderstanding: we’re dedicated to holding malign actors accountable for illegal seizures and assaults,” he stated.

Earlier on Sunday, British Overseas Secretary David Cameron stated he had informed Iranian Overseas Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian in a name that Iran ought to assist cease the Houthi assaults within the Purple Sea.

The BIMCO delivery affiliation condemned the assaults and thanked these states concerned in repelling them.

“We’re grateful to U.S., French, and UK efforts to date and hope much more states will help the coalition with naval belongings or different impactful means together with diplomatic strain on the Houthis and their sponsors,” Jakob Larsen, BIMCO’s head of maritime security and safety, informed Reuters.

(Reporting by Ahmed Elimam, Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen, Hatem Maher, Daphne Psaledakis and Kylie MacLellan; modifying by Frances Kerry, Jason Neely, Heather Timmons and Diane Craft)

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