Israel-Hamas war, Israeli forces launch Rafah airstrikes

A Greek-owned commercial vessel targeted by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the Red Sea on Monday was carrying corn from Brazil to Iran, according to US Central Command and the State Department.

This appears to be the first time the Houthis have targeted a ship destined for Iran, which provides backing for the rebel group that controls parts of Yemen.

The Houthis had previously claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was a US vessel.

“In this case, it seems Iran’s destabilizing activities have imperiled the food security of the Iranian people,” a State Department spokesperson said.

The vessel was not subject to US sanctions because it was carrying corn, which falls under an exemption that covers food supplies, the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said the vessel is owned by Star Bulk Carriers, “a Greek-based global shipping company with partial U.S. owners.”

The ship suffered minor damage and no injuries to its crew, according to the US Central Command.

The vessel, named the “Star Iris,” was sailing from the Brazilian port of Vila Do Conde to Iran’s Bandar Imam Khomeini port in the Persian Gulf, according to marine tracking company Kpler.

“The Star Iris, like every Iran-bound bulker, had not diverted away from the Red Sea, perhaps unafraid of attacks from Iran-backed Houthis who could be considered ‘friendly’ given the vessel’s destination,” said Ishan Bhanu, Lead Agricultural Commodities Analyst at Kpler.

“At a projected 4.5 million tonnes for this year, flows from Brazil make for the majority of Iran’s corn imports,” he said.

The Houthis have been targeting vessels delivering for Israel in the Red Sea in response to what they call Israel’s “aggression” against Gaza.

Despite repeated strikes against Houthi weapons, the Iran-backed rebel group has vowed to continue targeting vessels with links to Israel, the US and the UK.