Does this video show the aftermath of a missile attack by the Houthi rebels on a US cargo ship?

By January 18, 2024 Crisis and Disaster

We came across several posts on X circulating a video with similar claims that the video shows the aftermath of a missile attack on a US cargo ship in the Red Sea by a Yemeni rebel group, the Houthis.

The video shows a container ship on fire, and rescue ships surrounding it, attempting to put out the flames.


Who are the Houthis?

The Houthis are a Shia Islamist political and military organisation in Yemen. The armed force rose to prominence in 2014, after rebelling against the sitting government, taking control of the nation’s capital, Saana, and in the process, triggering a decade-long civil war that has now become the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis”.

The group is part of Iran’s alleged “axis of resistance”—a network of militias in the Middle East, including Hezbollah, and most importantly, Hamas.

Houthi rebels have targeted Israeli-registered ships in the Red Sea since November 2023 in protest of Israel’s war against Hamas and have threatened to continue their attacks until Israel stops the conflict in Gaza. The scale of attacks escalated in December 2023 and led to a counter-offensive by the US and UK on 12 January 2024.

Was a US cargo ship attacked?

Photograph of the US-owned cargo ship, Gibraltar Eagle. Photo credit: The Guardian

A US-owned cargo ship, namely the Gibraltar Eagle, was attacked by Houthi rebels on 15 January 2024 off the coast of Yemen. This comes off the back of a declaration by Nasruldeen Amer, a spokesperson for the Houthis, that American and British ships will be considered “legitimate targets” after the West’s provocation last week.

However, the Gibraltar Eagle reported no injuries or significant damage to its vessel. According to a statementby the vessel’s US-based operator, Eagle Bulk Shipping, the ship was stable and was continuing its journey in the Gulf of Aden. This seems at odds with the videos circulated on X as they show a vessel that is badly damaged by fire.

Furthermore, photographs of the Gibraltar Eagle also show a different ship than the vessel which appears in the videos circulating on X.

Do the videos show the Gibraltar Eagle?

We conducted a reverse image search of screenshots taken from the videos that were circulating on X to find the original clip. The original footage is from 2021 and shows a Singapore-registered container ship called the X Press Pearl that had caught on fire on 20 May 2021 while anchored near Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo.

It was believed that the fire on X Press Pearl was caused by the chemicals that it had been transporting. The vessel burned for 13 days before the fire was finally extinguished.

Hence, the claims circulating on X attributing the videos of X Press Pearl engulfed in flames to the aftermath of a missile attack by the Houthis on a US cargo ship are misleading and false.


Why are these videos circulating now?

Since the Israel-Hamas conflict began, we have seen a trend of unrelated images and videos falsely related to the conflict being circulated online. While the exact motivations behind such posts might be unclear, videos such as in the present claim could be intended to emotionally engage audiences to push selective narratives such as blaming the US and UK for the alleged escalation of the Israel-Hamas conflict and creating more polarising views.

Therefore, although certain social media posts may appear factual at face value, it is crucial to verify the information found on social media against verified sources to ensure that accurate information is shared and circulated.

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