The Iran-backed Houthis have carried out numerous drone and missile strikes in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November, claiming these are in retaliation for the Israel-Hamas conflict. However, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby clarified that the Filipino sailor was aboard the M/V Tutor, a Liberian-flagged, Greek-owned vessel unrelated to the Gaza conflict.

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The M/V Tutor suffered severe flooding and was abandoned after being struck by a sea drone off Hodeida, a port controlled by the rebels, on Wednesday, as reported by a British navy-operated security agency.

Additionally, Kirby reported that a Sri Lankan crew member was critically injured in another Houthi attack on Thursday. This attack targeted the M/V Verbena, a Palauan-flagged, Ukrainian-owned, Polish-operated vessel.

“This is pure terrorism. There’s simply no other word for it. The Houthi claim of supporting Gazans is meritless,” Kirby stated.

Kirby also mentioned newly announced U.S. sanctions targeting individuals and entities involved in the Houthi weapons procurement network. The State Department explained that these sanctions aim at those enabling Houthi forces to generate revenue and obtain materials necessary to manufacture advanced weaponry for their terrorist activities against U.S. and allied interests.