Posts Misrepresent Rescue of Crew from Ship Attacked by Houthis

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Quick Take

A missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi militants damaged a British-owned cargo ship on the Red Sea on Feb. 18 and forced its crew to evacuate. Some social media posts falsely claimed the Houthis “made sure to rescue” the 24-member crew. U.S. Central Command said the crew was rescued by a “coalition warship along with another merchant vessel.”


Full Story

The Houthis, who control much of western Yemen, have attacked more than 50 commercial and military ships since Nov. 19 as the vessels sailed through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The Iran-aligned Houthis said the attacks are in support of the Palestinian militant group Hamas in its war with Israel in the Gaza Strip.

As a result of the Houthi attacks, trade routes have been disrupted, causing delays and higher shipping costs as cargo ships bound for the Suez Canal instead go around the southern tip of Africa.

In response to the attacks, the United States has carried out airstrikes since Jan. 12 in Houthi-controlled Yemen, targeting the missiles, drones and rocket launchers used by the militants. The U.S. has also conducted joint operations with the British military.

A picture taken during an organized tour by Yemen’s Houthi militants on Nov. 22, 2023, shows the Galaxy Leader cargo ship, seized by Houthi fighters two days earlier, at a port on the Red Sea. Photo by AFP via Getty Images.

The Houthi attacks caused fires aboard several ships and, in at least one case, crew members were taken hostage. The Galaxy Leader, a cargo ship operated by a Japanese company and linked to an Israeli businessman, was hijacked by the Houthis on Nov. 19 and its 25-person crew were still hostages in Yemen as of Feb. 19.

But some social media posts falsely claimed that the Houthis themselves participated in rescue efforts after attacking a British-owned ship, the MV Rubymar, on Feb. 18.

“Yemen sunk a British ship this week, but made sure to rescue the entire 24-man crew of the RUBYMAR,” YouTube host Richard Medhurst posted to X on Feb. 24. “They’re all safe.” He added, “This is the difference between how they conduct their warfare, and how the US/UK show up and start killing people,” a reference to U.S. and British airstrikes, which the Houthis said killed one person and injured six.

Medhurst’s post, which has been viewed more than 700,000 times, was also shared on Instagram by user @HandsOffYemen, a popular slogan for protesting U.S. intervention in Yemen.

But we could find no evidence that the Houthis rescued the crew of the Rubymar, which included Syrians, Egyptians, Indians and Filipinos, the Washington Post reported.

On Feb. 19, U.S. Central Command posted on X and issued a press release saying that the crew received aid and transport from a “coalition warship along with another merchant vessel.”

U.S. Central Command, Feb. 19: Between 9:30 and 10:45 p.m., Feb. 18, two anti-ship ballistic missiles were launched from Iranian-backed Houthi terrorist-controlled areas of Yemen toward MV Rubymar, a Belize-flagged, UK-owned bulk carrier. One of the missiles struck the vessel, causing damage. The ship issued a distress call and a coalition warship along with another merchant vessel responded to the call to assist the crew of the MV Rubymar. The crew was transported to a nearby port by the merchant vessel.

In a Feb. 27 phone call, a spokesperson for Central Command told us, in response to the social media posts, “We have no intel supporting the claim that [the Houthis] assisted in the rescue.”

Also, rather than sinking the ship, as the posts claimed, the Houthi attack damaged the Rubymar. The damage caused an 18-mile oil slick, and Central Command said the ship’s cargo of 41,000 tons of fertilizer could spill and lead to an “environmental disaster,” the Associated Press reported.


Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.

Sources

Baldor, Lolita C. and Tara Copp. “US and British strikes on Houthi sites in Yemen answer militants’ surge in Red Sea attacks on ships.” Associated Press. 25 Feb 2024.

Debre, Isabel and Jon Gambrell. “Yemen’s Houthi rebels hijack an Israeli-linked ship in the Red Sea and take 25 crew members hostage.” Associated Press. 20 Nov 2023.

International Chamber of Shipping. “Shipping industry calls for release of Galaxy Leader crew still held captive.” 19 Feb 2024.

Magdy, Samy. “Officials warn of ‘environmental disaster’ after attack on cargo ship in Red Sea causes oil slick.” Associated Press. 24 Feb 2024.

Reuters. “Attacks from Houthi-controlled Yemen hit two ships.” 16 Dec 2023.

Reuters. “Trafigura assesses Red Sea risks after tanker attacked by Houthis.” 27 Jan 2024.

Reuters. “Yemen Houthis leader says group will further escalate if attacks on Gaza do not stop.” 7 Feb 2024.

Scarr, Simon, et al. “Red Sea attacks: How Houthi militants in Yemen are attacking ships in one of the world’s busiest maritime trade routes.” Reuters. 2 Feb 2024.

U.S. Central Command. Press release. “Feb. 18 Summary of Red Sea Activities.” 19 Feb 2024.

U.S. Central Command. Spokesperson. Phone interview with FactCheck.org. 27 Feb 2024.

Westfall, Sammy. “Cargo ship crew forced to evacuate after Houthi missile attack off Yemen.” Washington Post. Updated 20 Feb 2024.

Wiseman, Paul and Mae Anderson. “Attacks on ships in the Red Sea are disrupting global trade. Here’s how it could affect what you buy.” Associated Press. 28 Jan 2024.

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One response to “Posts Misrepresent Rescue of Crew from Ship Attacked by Houthis”

  1. Your writing has a positive impact.

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