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New pictures have shown the extent of the damage to the RUBYMAR, a British-registered cargo vessel, after it was hit by a double rocket attack by Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Photos broadcast by Yemeni Al-Joumhouriya TV show the vessel, which is carrying 22,000 tons of fertiliser to Morocco, sinking in the Red Sea. There were no crew members on board. The security firm in charge of safety on the ship said they evacuated immediately after the missile strike on Feb 18 and it began leaking fuel. The Saudi-backed government of Yemen has asked the United Nations for help to avoid an environmental disaster due to the danger of a spill from the cargo.The ship’s chartering broker told Reuters on Monday that it was looking to bring a work ship to close a hole caused by the missile. There was no further update on Tuesday.

Shipping risks have escalated due to repeated Houthi strikes in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab Strait since November in what they describe as acts of solidarity with Palestinians against Israel in the Gaza war.US and British forces have responded with strikes on Houthi facilities but have so far failed to halt the attacks.

The Houthis said on Tuesday they could only reconsider their missile and drone attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea once Israel ended its “aggression” in the Gaza Strip.Asked if they would halt the attacks if a ceasefire deal was reached, Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam told Reuters the situation would be reassessed if the siege of Gaza ended and humanitarian aid was free to enter.“There will be no halt to any operations that help Palestinian people except when the Israeli aggression on Gaza and the siege stop,” he said.

The Houthis, who control Yemen’s most populous regions, sent shipping officials and insurers formal notice of what they termed a ban on vessels linked to Israel, the US and Britain from sailing in surrounding seas.Yemen’s officially recognised government said in a letter circulated on Feb 15 to International Maritime Organisation member countries that it had “warned of the danger of the Houthi militia”, adding that the group had “continued to randomly plant sea mines”, while also using drone boats and missiles.

Source : The Telegraph