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MANILA, Philippines – At least 15 Filipino seafarers have been reported safe following a drone attack orchestrated by Yemeni Houthi rebels in the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) confirmed on Saturday, December 16.
The attack on Friday, December 15, was launched on the Liberian-flagged, German-owned Al Jasrah vessel as it was crossing the Bal al Mandeb Strait, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. The projectile caused a fire, but did not result in injuries, a United States defense official said.
Citing the ship’s manning agency and its shipping company, the DMW said all members of the crew, which included 15 Filipinos, were safe and accounted for.
DMW Officer-in-Charge Hans Cacdac issued instructions to the department’s sea-based operations units to continuously monitor the situation, and work closely with the seafarers’ employers to ensure their safety.
Cacdac also ordered the manning agency to contact and meet families and relatives of the crew members and the department to provide regular updates about their situation.
The Houthis said in a statement that they fired missiles at two ships – the MSC Alanya, and MSC Palatium III. They did not mention the Al Jasrah.
An MSC spokesperson said there was no attack on the Alanya. Asked about the Houthi claimed attack on Palatium III, the spokesperson did not provide any further statement.
The Houthis claimed both vessels had been heading to Israel. However, Alanya and Palatium III both listed Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, as their destination, according to data from ship tracking and maritime analytics provider MarineTraffic.
The Iran-aligned Houthis have been targeting vessels in the southern Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab Strait in a show of support for Palestinians as Israel and Palestinian group Hamas wage war, and Israel intensifies its attacks on Gaza. (READ: Israel mistakenly kills 3 hostages; US urges Israel to narrow attacks)
DMW spokesperson Toby Nebrida on Saturday noted that the Bab al-Mandeb Strait is strategic for military purposes, as it is a chokepoint which may be used to control access to and from the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.
It is also a vital trade route for crude oil and fuel between Europe, Asia, and Africa.
The attack on the Al Jasrah is the latest in a string of attacks around the Red Sea, with more Filipinos caught in the crossfire of the regional conflict.
The Philippines has been working towards the release of the 17 hostages. Their capture pushed President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. himself to cancel his attendance to the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), who said he needed to convene a meeting to facilitate the dispatch of a high-level delegation to Tehran, Iran, with the aim of helping the seafarers. – with reports from Reuters/Rappler.com