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Pentagon Claims Pirates Targeted Israeli-Linked Tanker, Not the Houthis

Two days after news broke that the Houthis in Yemen had tried to seize an Israeli-linked tanker in what seemed like a special kind of escalation of the conflict, the Pentagon surprised many by rejecting the story.

Per its press secretary, the people who tried to seize the Central Park in the Gulf of Aden last weekend were not Houthis but likely Somali pirates.

"We're continuing to assess, but initial indications are that these five individuals are Somali," Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told media. "Clearly a piracy-related incident," he added.

Brig. Gen. Ryder was referring to five people who boarded the Israeli-owned tanker in the Gulf of Aden last Sunday and tried to seize it.

Per media reports, the Liberian-flagged vessel was seized off the coast of Yemen, sent a distress signal and the USS Mason responded, calling on allied vessels in the area to help, per a Reuters report citing a statement by the Pentagon.

The AP reported that the company that manages the tanker is Zodiac Maritime, which is the property of Zodiac Group, owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer.

Earlier this month, Houthi forces seized a cargo ship in the Red Sea and said it was owned by Israelis before directing it to the port of Hodeidah, where it remains to date.

This was perhaps what prompted initial reports to blame the attack on the Central Park on the Houthis, with even the exiled previous government of Yemen slamming the group for the attempt to seize the vessel.

According to the Pentagon, however, the Houthis fired missiles after the USS Mason had responded to the distress signal of the Central Park and neither vessel was their intended target.

As a result of the attacks, some vessels are beginning to redirect to other chokepoints, away from the Gulf of Aden.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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