Editor’s note: This story was updated at 7:45 p.m. EST with additional information.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Commercial ships were attacked by drones and missiles in the Red Sea on Sunday and the navy destroyer Carney shot down several aerial drones during an hours-long assault claimed by Houthi rebels in Yemen backed by Iran, officials said.
The attacks potentially mark a major escalation in a series of maritime attacks in the Middle East linked to the war between Israel and Hamas, as several ships found themselves in the crosshairs of a single Houthi assault for the first time times in the conflict.
“We also have every reason to believe that these attacks, although launched by the Houthis in Yemen, are fully permitted by Iran. » US Central Command said in a statement late Sunday afternoon US time. “The United States will consider all appropriate responses in full coordination with its international allies and partners. »
In total, there were four attacks on three different commercial vessels operating in the international waters of the southern Red Sea.
In each case, Carney responded to the ship’s distress calls and provided assistance, shooting down several aerial drones heading in his direction along the way.
It began around 9:15 a.m. local time when Carney detected an anti-ship ballistic missile fired from Houthi-controlled areas toward the Bahamas-flagged commercial vessel M/V Unity Explorer, which landed “nearby” from Unity Explorer, CENTCOM. said.
Then, around noon, Carney engaged and shot down a drone launched from Yemen that was heading toward the warship, although CENTCOM said the drone’s specific target was unclear.
“There was no damage to the American vessel and no personal injuries,” the command said.
At 12:35 p.m., Unity Explorer reported that it had been hit by a missile, and Carney headed toward the ship and began participating in a damage assessment, which found “minor damage from the strike of the missile”.
At that point, Carney detected another incoming aerial drone and destroyed it as well.
About three hours later, around 3:30 p.m., the Panama-flagged M/V number 9 was hit by another missile fired from Houthi areas in Yemen, CENTCOM said, but the strike on the bulk carrier did not result in any damage or casualty.
At 4:30 p.m., the Romanian-flagged M/V Sophie II sent a distress call saying it had been hit by a missile, with Carney responding and finding only minor damage.
While en route to Sophie II, Carney shot down an aerial drone heading toward the warship, his third interception of the day.
Carney has shot down several aerial drones over the Red Sea over the past six weeks.
On October 19, its crew intercepted a salvo of missiles and aerial drones that the Pentagon said were heading toward Israel.
The Red Sea is a vital artery of the global economy, and CENTCOM said the attacks “pose a direct threat to international trade and maritime security.”
“They endangered the lives of international crews representing several countries around the world,” the command said.
The Houthi military spokesperson, Brigadier-General. General Yahya Saree claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying the first ship was hit by a missile and the second by a drone while in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden .
Saree did not mention any U.S. warships involved in the attack.
“The Yemeni armed forces continue to prevent Israeli ships from sailing in the Red Sea (and the Gulf of Aden) until Israeli aggression against our loyal brothers in the Gaza Strip ceases,” Saree said . “The Yemeni armed forces renew their warning to all Israeli or Israeli-associated vessels, warning them that they will become a legitimate target if they violate what is stated in this declaration.”
Global shipping is increasingly targeted as the war between Israel and Hamas threatens to spiral into a wider regional conflict – even though a truce has ended the fighting and Hamas is swapping hostages for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. However, the collapse of the truce and the resumption of Israeli airstrikes and its ground offensive have increased the risk of a resumption of maritime attacks.
Earlier in November, the Houthis seized a vehicle transport ship also linked to Israel in the Red Sea off Yemen. Rebels still hold the ship near the port city of Hodeida. Missiles also landed near another US warship last week after it rescued an Israel-linked vessel that was briefly seized by gunmen.
However, the Houthis have not directly targeted the Americans for some time, further raising the stakes in an escalating maritime conflict. In 2016, the United States launched Tomahawk cruise missiles that destroyed three coastal radar sites in Houthi-controlled territory, in retaliation for missiles fired at U.S. Navy ships, including the USS Mason, at the ‘era.
Associated Press writers Tara Copp in Dallas, Lolita C. Baldor in Washington and Dana Beltaji contributed.
Geoff is the editor of the Navy Times, but he still loves writing stories. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes all kinds of advice at firstname.lastname@example.org.