Israel-Hamas WarHouthis Strike Commercial Ship in Red Sea, Fanning Fears of Wider War

Men, some wearing scarves tied around their foreheads, hold up guns while marching in a city street.
Protesting in Sanaa, Yemen, this month to show support for Palestinians in Gaza.Credit…Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

Here’s what we know:

A missile hit a tanker in one of the first successful strikes on a ship by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia in Yemen, which has vowed to target vessels in protest of Israel’s assault on Gaza.

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The vessel struck by the Houthis was bound for Italy, the shipowner says.

A Yemeni militia backed by Iran struck a commercial vessel with a missile in the Red Sea on Tuesday, U.S. officials said, fanning concerns that the war in Gaza could balloon into a wider regional conflict.

The Strinda, a Norwegian tanker, caught fire after being hit by a cruise missile launched from a part of Yemen controlled by the Houthi militia, the U.S. military said. While no one was reported injured, it appeared to be one of the first successful strikes on a ship after weeks of threats by the Houthis, who have promised to hit vessels and shut down the waterway in protest of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

The Houthis, who have launched several drone and missile attacks on Israeli and American targets in recent weeks, said early Tuesday that they struck the Strinda because it was carrying oil to Israel. But the shipping company that owns the vessel said it was carrying feedstock for biofuel and had been bound for Italy. While the Houthis have said they intend to stop Israeli ships from sailing in the Red Sea, which is crucial to global shipping, some of its prior targets have had no clear connection to Israel.

The attack underlined concerns that the war in Gaza, now in its third month, could draw in other armed groups that, like Hamas, are adversaries of Israel and supported by Iran. In recent days, Israeli leaders have hinted at escalating the conflict with the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah, with Benny Gantz, a member of the Israeli war cabinet, warning on Monday that the group’s intensifying cross-border strikes “demand of Israel to remove such a threat.”

Militias supported by Iran have warned of broader attacks against Israel unless it stops its assault in Gaza, which has killed at least 15,000 people, and likely thousands more, according to Gazan health authorities. Since the conflict began on Oct. 7, when Hamas, which controls Gaza, killed some 1,200 people in Israel, diplomats from the United States, Qatar and other Middle East countries have worked to limit the fallout from the war, increase humanitarian aid to Gazans and negotiate pauses in the fighting.

A weeklong truce, during which hostages held by Hamas were exchanged for Palestinians detained by Israel, ended on Dec. 1, dampening hopes for a longer cease-fire. The resumption of fighting renewed fears that militias tied to Iran would step up their attacks on Israel.

So far, most missiles and drones fired by the Houthis have been intercepted by U.S. naval forces stationed in the area or have fallen off course. And Hezbollah and the Israeli military have engaged in cross-border shelling and missile strikes, with limited casualties.

Analysts say that neither Hezbollah nor Israel wants their skirmishes to flare into all-out war, and the Israeli military has said it is focused on freeing hostages held in Gaza and eliminating Hamas.

Israeli forces are now fighting street by street in three areas of Gaza that Israel calls Hamas strongholds, hoping to arrest or kill the masterminds of the Oct. 7 attacks, including Yahya Sinwar, who is believed to be hiding in Khan Younis, the largest city in southern Gaza. The chief of staff of Israel’s army, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, spoke to commanders in Khan Younis on Monday, a day after visiting troops in the north who are fighting Hezbollah.

Yan Zhuang, Livia Albeck-Ripka and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.

A correction was made on

Dec. 12, 2023

An earlier version of this article misstated the day that Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, spoke about Hezbollah’s cross-border strikes. It was Monday, not Tuesday.

When we learn of a mistake, we acknowledge it with a correction. If you spot an error, please let us know at more

— Andrés R. MartínezShow more

‘We are all sick’: Infectious diseases spread across Gaza.

A person bending over to collect water as a child wearing a maroon jacket watches and another person sits on a chair.
Palestinians collecting water in Khan Younis in southern Gaza on Monday. Access to clean water and food is scarce in the overcrowded shelters.Credit…Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Infectious diseases are ravaging the population of Gaza, health officials and aid organizations said on Monday, citing cold, wet weather; overcrowding in shelters; scarce food; dirty water; and little medicine.

Adding to the crisis in the enclave after more than two months of war, those who become ill have extremely limited treatment options, as hospitals have been overwhelmed with patients injured in airstrikes.

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