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Assessing Claims About Houthi Attacks in the Red Sea
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Assessing Claims About Houthi Attacks in the Red Sea

An independent journalist incorrectly claimed the Houthis sank a ship and rescued the crew.

Commercial vessels are sailing in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of northern Israel on December 21, 2023, following the United States' announcement of its intention to establish a multinational coalition to protect cargo ships traveling through the Red Sea from attacks by Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi group. (Photo by Mati Milstein/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A tweet posted Saturday from Richard Medhurst, a self-described independent journalist who regularly contributes to the Russian government-backed RT network, Syrian state-controlled Alikhbaria, and Iran-aligned Al Mayadeen, claims that Houthi forces recently sunk a ship and rescued its 24-man crew. The tweet has more than 22,000 likes and close to 9,000 retweets, and an accompanying repost on Instagram has more than 3,300 likes.

The post refers to the MV Rubymar, a Lebanese-registered and Belize-flagged cargo ship, that was struck by missiles fired by Iran-backed Houthi forces in Yemen on February 18 while moving through the Gulf of Aden. 

Medhurst’s assertion that Houthis rescued the Rubymar’s 24-person crew is false. The sailors were actually rescued by a passing Singapore-flagged cargo vessel, Atlantic Lloyd’s MV Lobivia, which was en route to Djibouti at the time. On February 19, the crew was repatriated from the Lobivia by the Djibouti Port Authority aboard the Mont Arrey, a Djibouti-flagged high-sea tugboat.

Additionally, the Rubymar had not yet sunk when Medhurst made his claim, at least according to recent evidence. On February 24, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi—a leader in the Houthi organization—posted a tweet claiming that the Houthis could allow the Rubymar to be towed in exchange for additional relief trucks being allowed into Gaza, suggesting that the ship had not yet sunk. Blue Fleet Group, the Rubymar’s operating company, and LSS SAPU, the ship’s security firm, did not return questions from The Dispatch Fact Check regarding the ship’s current status.

The Houthis have launched at least 57 attacks on commercial and military ships since November of last year, with the U.S. and U.K. stepping up strikes against the Iran-backed terrorist organization in recent weeks. No deaths from Houthi missile strikes have been reported thus far, but many projectiles launched from Houthi territory in Yemen have been intercepted by the American, French, and Israeli militaries. 

The strike on the Rubymar was one of the most significant strikes on a commercial vessel since the onset of Houthi aggression. Oil spilled from the vessel has caused an 18-mile oil slick in the Red Sea, and officials remain concerned that the 22,000 metric tons of fertilizer onboard the ship could spill and result in further environmental damage.

Medhurst did not return a request for comment from The Dispatch Fact Check.
If you have a claim you would like to see us fact check, please send us an email at factcheck@thedispatch.com. If you would like to suggest a correction to this piece or any other Dispatch article, please email corrections@thedispatch.com.

Alex Demas is a fact checker at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in England as a financial journalist and earned his MA in Political Economy at King's College London. When not heroically combating misinformation online, Alex can be found mixing cocktails, watching his beloved soccer team Aston Villa lose a match, or attempting to pet stray cats.