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Crew of Rubymar cargo ship not rescued by ‘Yemen’ after missile attack

Crew of Rubymar cargo ship not rescued by ‘Yemen’ after missile attack
29 February 2024

What was claimed
Yemen sank the British ship the ‘Rubymar’ but rescued its 24-man crew.

A claim that crew members of a cargo ship sunk in the Red Sea were rescued by “Yemen” has been circulating online.

It has been shared widely on Facebook, and by an “independent journalist” posting on Instagram and X (formerly known as Twitter) on 24 February, where it has been shared over 8,700 times.

The post says: “Yemen sunk a British ship this week, but made sure to rescue the entire 24-man crew of the RUBYMAR. They’re all safe. Yemen’s blockade has killed no one to date. This is the difference between how they conduct their warfare, and how the US/UK show up and start killing people.”

However, this claim isn’t correct.

What happened to the Rubymar and its crew?

The post concerns the Rubymar cargo vessel, which was damaged by a missile attack in the Bab al-Mandab Strait on 18 February. Houthi rebel forces in Yemen claimed responsibility.

The Rubymar is a bulk carrier which was transporting fertiliser, sailing under the flag of Belize, and which is registered in the UK.

A statement issued by the ‘Yemeni Armed Forces’, the Houthi group, on 19 February said: “The Naval forces of the Yemeni Armed Forces carried out a specific military operation, targeting a British ship in the Gulf of Aden, “RUBYMAR,” with a number of appropriate naval missiles.”

The spokesman added: “During the operation, we made sure that the ship’s crew exited safely.”

It is unclear exactly what this entailed.

However, US Central Command reported the 24 crew members were rescued by a merchant vessel along with a ‘coalition’ warship after they responded to a distress call. The merchant vessel was reportedly the MV Lobivia, a container ship sailing under the flag of Singapore.

US Central Command told the site that it had no “intel” supporting the claim that Houthis aided in the rescue.

The Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority also reported that after the rescue from the passing ship, it received the Rubymar crew members on board one of its tugboats, Mont Arrey, to repatriate them.

At the time of writing (29 February), it also appears that the ship has not sunk. Although it is taking in water, it has been drifting in the Red Sea since the attack, with negotiations underway to arrange for it to be towed to the nearest port that will accept it.

The claim comes amid reports of an increase in attacks on shipping vessels by the Houthi rebel group since the outbreak of the current Israel-Gaza conflict in October. The Houthis control parts of Yemen on the coast of the Red Sea. The US and UK have also launched airstrikes against targets in Yemen in response to these attacks.

In response to an email from Full Fact, the author of the post, Richard Medhurst, posted on X: “Yemen ensured the crew of a UK ship (RUBYMAR) got to safety after they had attacked it for violating the blockade. Crew were taken by a passing vessel to Djibouti, but that doesn’t mean Yemen didn't help ensure their rescue. As I said, Yemen confirmed this in English and Arabic.”

We have written about many miscaptioned images and videos, which are often widely shared during significant news events.

These have included photos falsely claiming to show airstrikes in Yemen which were actually a Saudi oil facility explosion, and a video of a ship off the coast of Oman which was incorrectly claimed to be a British oil tanker hit by missiles in the Red Sea.

Our guides on spotting misleading images and videos can help to verify whether content on social media shows what it claims to.