Video of a Sri Lankan ship shared to claim Yemen bombed an Israeli ship

By: Soham Shah
December 5 2023

Share Article: facebook logo twitter logo linkedin logo
Video of a Sri Lankan ship shared to claim Yemen bombed an Israeli ship

Post claiming that Yemen has bombed an Israeli ship. (Source: X/Modified by Logically Facts)


The Verdict False

The video shows a ship burning off the coast of Sri Lanka in 2021 and is unrelated to both Israel and Yemen.

Claim ID 7cc19858

(Editor's Note: This story was first published on December 5, 2023, and has been republished from Logically Facts' archives in light of a video of the same incident being shared as footage of a U.S.-owned cargo ship being hit by a missile off the coast of Yemen.)

What is the claim?

Multiple posts have been shared on social media X (formerly Twitter) with the claim that Yemen has bombed an Israeli ship. One such post carried the caption, “Yemen bombed the Israeli cargo ship "Unity Explorer" American military ships and other Western bases came to Djibouti trying to rescue the Israeli cargo ship Unity Explorer, which has now sunk in the Red Sea.” Archive links to such posts can be found here, here, and here.


X posts claiming that Yemen has bombed an Israeli ship. (Source: X/Modified by Logically Facts) 

These posts are being shared in relation to the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict in which over 1,200 Israelis were killed by Hamas in an attack on October 7, 2023, and over 15,200 Gazans have been killed by Israel in retaliation.

Reuters reported on December 4, 2023, that Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed to have attacked two ships in the Red Sea. One of these ships was named Unity Explorer, the same as in the posts. Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari confirmed in the report that the ships have no connection to Israel. The Houthis have, in the past, fired drones and ballistic missiles at Israel.

On researching, we found the viral video is unrelated to the alleged attack on the Unity Explorer and shows a May 2021 incident off the coast of Sri Lanka.

What is the truth?

CNN Indonesia posted a longer video showing similar visuals on May 26, 2021. The video, a compilation of clips, reportedly showed a Singapore-registered vessel that had caught fire off the coast of Sri Lanka’s Colombo on May 20, 2021. The report, Google translated from Indonesian, showed that a more intense fire followed on May 24, owing to the presence of chemicals on the ship. At the 0:24 mark of the CNN video, the visuals match the viral video. 

CNN Indonesia published a video with the same visuals. (Source: Screenshot/CNN)

A 45-second video uploaded to X by the Sri Lankan Daily Mirror on May 26, 2021, also closely matched the viral video. "Debris washes ashore at Negombo from the burning X-Press Pearl ship," the post read.

Post from the Daily Mirror. (Source: X)

Other publications like the BBC also posted various other visuals of the burning ship.

BBC video. (Source: YouTube)

According to The Guardian, the fire broke out on May 20, 2021, aboard the MV X-Press Pearl, a 25-person crew boat. While the crew was evacuated, the fire on the ship - which was carrying chemicals like nitric acid sodium hydroxide and 300 tonnes of fuel in its tanks - burned for over 10 days. The Indian and Sri Lankan navies were involved in dousing the fire. The incident caused significant environmental damage to air, ocean water, and beaches, and fishing was banned in a 50-km radius around the site of the burning ship. 

The verdict

We have marked this claim as false as the video is from 2021, and the ship was Singapore-registered and not Israeli. Neither Houthi rebels nor Yemen were in any way connected. 

Would you like to submit a claim to fact-check or contact our editorial team?

Global Fact-Checks Completed

We rely on information to make meaningful decisions that affect our lives, but the nature of the internet means that misinformation reaches more people faster than ever before