On Saturday, a Japanese-owned chemical tanker off the coast of India was reportedly targeted by a drone launched from Iran, according to the Pentagon. This incident highlights an increased threat to commercial shipping beyond the Red Sea. The attack occurred around 10 am local time (0600 GMT) and resulted in no casualties, with the fire on the vessel successfully extinguished. This incident occurred amidst a series of drone and missile strikes by Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels on a crucial Red Sea shipping lane, aligning their actions with the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict since October 7.

The US military continues to communicate with the vessel as it progresses toward its destination in India, according to the Pentagon. The drone strike occurred 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) off the coast of India, with no US Navy vessels in the vicinity. This marks the first time the Pentagon has openly accused Iran of directly targeting ships since the onset of Israel’s conflict with Hamas, supported by Iran.

The MV Chem Pluto, flying a Liberian flag and operated by a Dutch entity, is owned by a Japanese company. Ambrey, a maritime security firm, stated that the Israel-affiliated chemical/products tanker was en route from Saudi Arabia to India. The Dutch company operating the MV Chem Pluto is reportedly linked to Israeli shipping tycoon Idan Ofer, as per The Wall Street Journal.

The Indian navy responded to a request for assistance, dispatching an aircraft to ensure the safety of the ship and its crew. Additionally, an Indian navy warship was sent to provide assistance as needed. No immediate claim of responsibility for the strike has been made.

In a separate incident last month, an Israeli-owned cargo ship was reportedly hit in a suspected drone attack by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in the Indian Ocean. The Red Sea attacks during the Israel-Hamas conflict have led major companies to reroute cargo vessels around the southern tip of Africa, despite increased fuel costs for longer voyages.

Huthi rebels have launched over 100 drone and missile attacks, targeting 10 merchant vessels involving more than 35 countries, according to the Pentagon. An official from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard warned of the potential closure of other waterways unless Israel ceased its conflict with Hamas. Mohammad Reza Naqdi stated, “With the continuation of these crimes, America and its allies should expect the emergence of new resistance forces and the closure of other waterways,” mentioning the Mediterranean Sea among them, without providing further details.

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