The Pentagon says an American warship and multiple commercial ships came under attack Sunday in the Red Sea as Iran-backed Houthis of Yemen have intensified attacks.
Houthis have claimed drone and missile attacks on two ships they described as being linked to Israel but have not acknowledged targeting a US Navy vessel.
"We're aware of reports regarding attacks on the USS Carney and commercial vessels in the Red Sea and will provide information as it becomes available," the Pentagon said Sunday.
Earlier in the day, UK-based maritime security firm Ambrey said there had been a suspected drone attack and explosions in the Red Sea. "The affected vessel was issuing distress calls relating to piracy/missile attack," the UK-based company added, noting that "an international naval asset in the vicinity of the incident" was likely proceeding to the ship's location. Ambrey said a bulk carrier and a container ship had been hit by at least two drones.
Yemen's Houthi movement said its navy had attacked two Israeli ships, Unity Explorer and Number Nine, with an armed drone and a naval missile. A spokesperson for the Houthis’ military said the two ships were targeted after they rejected warnings, without elaborating. Houthis are believed to possess a variety of Iranian missiles and drones.
In a broadcast statement, the spokesperson said the attacks were in response to the demands of the Yemeni people and calls from Islamic nations to stand with the Palestinian people. Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree said the first vessel was hit by a missile and the second by a drone while in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait that links the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. “The Yemeni armed forces renew their warning to all Israeli ships or those associated with Israelis that they will become a legitimate target if they violate what is stated in this statement.”
Since Hamas’s deadly onslaught on Israel on October 7 and Israel’s retaliatory offensive in Gaza, Yemen’s Houthis have launched several drone and missile attacks against US and Israeli targets in the region. The Biden administration, which took Houthis off of the US terrorist list has not retaliated to the maritime attacks.
Last month, the group – which controls most of Yemen's Red Sea coast -- also seized a British-owned and Japanese-operated cargo ship while their attempt to highjack another vessel was thwarted thanks to the US Navy as it responded to a distress call from an Israeli-managed commercial tanker in the Gulf of Aden after it had been seized by armed individuals.
The Houthi attack came after calls by Iran’s leader Ali Khamenei to ban shipment of oil and food to Israel. The group, which controls most of Yemen's Red Sea coast, had previously fired ballistic missiles and armed drones at Israel and vowed to target more Israeli vessels.
Though the Islamic Republic has avoided any direct involvement in the Israel-Hamas conflict, the regime has used its proxy groups in the region such as Houthis and Hezbollah to attack Israel and American targets.
ABC News, citing a US official, said the USS Carney had been involved in multiple engagements involving Houthi attacks on commercial vessels. "In at least two circumstances, the Carney successfully shot down (drones) headed in its direction," the official told ABC.