Video does not show US chopper thwarting Houthi attack
Old clips combined, rehashed in misleading context amid Red Sea tensions
Claim: A video shows the Yemeni Houthi group attacking and boarding a Maersk container ship before US helicopters “successfully thwarted” the attempt.
Fact: The video is a compilation of four different old clips edited into one longer video to make it look like footage of a new naval battle.
“US helicopters successfully thwarted a Houthi rebel attack on a Maersk container ship in the Red Sea, resulting in the sinking of three rebel ships and the death of 10 militants.”
The claim pertains to a Houthi attack (archive) on — and an attempt to board — the Singapore-flagged Maersk Hangzhou, following which the shipping company temporarily halted and redirected (archive) its Red Sea sailings. The incident had led to a naval battle (archive).
Houthi attacks in Bab al-Mandab Strait
Multiple cargo ships, including those carrying oil, have been attacked by Houthis in the Bab al-Mandab Strait, a narrow waterway separating Yemen and East Africa that links Europe and Asia. “An estimated 10% of the world’s trade passes [through it],” The Washington Post has reported (archive).
The publication quoted (archive) Mohammed Albukhaiti, a Houthi ruling council member, as saying, “Our war is a moral war, and therefore, no matter how many alliances America mobilizes, our military operations will not stop. Participating in a coalition to protect the perpetrators of genocidal crimes is a disgrace in the history of the participating countries.”
Albukhaiti made this statement in light of Israel’s war against Hamas.
On 12 January 2024, the US and UK retaliated against the Houthis and their Red Sea shipping route attacks by sending their warplanes, ships, and submarines, which “launched dozens of air strikes [across Yemen]”, Reuters reported (archive).“The U.S. military said 60 targets in 28 locations had been hit, using more than 150 munitions,” the publication added.
US President Joe Biden, White House, and the Pentagon also issued comments in this regard.
However, the Houthis have “retained about three-quarters of their ability to fire missiles and drones at ships”, The New York Times reported (archive) citing US officials. According to Reuters (archive), the group warned of expanding their attacks to “include U.S. ships in response to American and British strikes on their sites in Yemen”.
On 17 January 2024, the US redesignated the Houthis as an SDGT. “The Department of State today is announcing the designation of Ansarallah, commonly referred to as the Houthis, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group, effective 30 days from today,” it said (archive) in a press release.
Fact or Fiction?
“A Maersk cargo vessel was struck by a Houthi missile in the Red Sea. #Yemen”
“احتراق لنش في المياه الإقليمية لسلطنة عمان قبالة سواحل نيابة حاسك بمحافظة ظفار، محمل بمجموعة من البضائع متّجهًا إلى جمهورية الصومال، وتم إجلاء طاقمه المكون من ١١ شخصاً من الجنسية الهندية عن طريق المواطنين وجميعهم بصحة جيدة مع إصابة أحدهم بإصابة بسيطة ونُقل لتلقي العلاج اللازم.
[A boat burned in the territorial waters of the Sultanate of Oman off the coast of the Hasik Niyabat in the Dhofar Governorate, loaded with a group of goods heading to the Republic of Somalia. Its crew, consisting of 11 people of Indian nationality, was evacuated by citizens, all of whom were in good health, with one of them sustaining a minor injury and being transported to receive the necessary treatment.]”
“Citizens manage to evacuate a crew onboard a ship that caught fire in the Sultanate of Oman’s territorial waters, while it was en route to the Republic of Somalia,” Times of Oman wrote.
Oman Observer added, “The crew are in good health, with one of them sustaining a minor injury.”
The video posted by The Times of India also includes additional footage, with one of them depicting a small boat being targeted by what is apparently an automated gun, another allegedly showing Houthi members taking over a vessel, and a third of two boats with a large ship in the background.
We matched the footage showing the targeting of a small boat to that posted (archive) on a YouTube channel Awais Khan on 1 April 2019. This confirmed that the clip is not new, so we searched further and found that the same was also posted (archive) on X by Israeli Internet personality Hananya Naftali and already flagged by Community Notes.
The third clip allegedly showing Houthi members taking over a vessel is also old; it was first posted in November 2023 and can be viewed on the YouTube channels of multiple news outlets, including Reuters (archive), The Guardian (archive), and NBC News (archive).
The last clip showing two boats with a large ship in the background is not new either. We were able to match a screenshot from it to an image published in a 25 November 2023 report (archive) by The New Arab. Using Google Lens, we found the visual on British stock photo agency Alamy here (archive), with the following caption:
“Sanaa, Yemen. 20th Nov, 2023. Images released by Yemen’s Houthi group on Nov. 20 show Houthi militants as they Hijack a cargo ship near Yemen in the southern Red Sea on Sunday. Houthi spokesperson says the group’s fighters have hijacked the ship, reportedly owned by an Israeli businessman. Photo by Houthi Group press Service/ Credit: UPI/Alamy Live News”
Conclusion: The video is a compilation of old clips rehashed to make it look like new footage depicting a recent naval battle.
Background image in cover photo: Nate Cheney
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