Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have again attacked a vessel sailing in the Red Sea — or several vessels, as indicated on Sunday by the Pentagon.
The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attacks in a subsequent statement, targeting two commercial vessels in the Bab al-Mandeb Strait with a missile and a drone.
According to a US defense official who spoke with reporters, the USS Carney shot down at least two kamikaze drones fired by the Houthis towards the warship. Similar attacks were aimed at — and struck — several commercial vessels in the Red Sea, the official said.
The US naval ship was responding to distress calls after the Houthi drones attacked several commercial vessels in the Red Sea, including a UK ship sailing under the flag of Bahamas that sustained a direct hit and was badly damaged.
A National Security Council official later told reporters that preliminary assessments of the situation showed only the commercial ships, and not the USS Carney, were targeted in the attacks.
The Houthis claimed they were targeting two Israeli vessels in the Red Sea, calling them “legitimate targets.”
“If the Americans and the Israelis attack Yemen – it will be a foolish act, and the response to this will be strong and painful,” the Houthis said in the statement. “We are ready for all possibilities and also for attacks from Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.”
Multiple reports citing a statement from the Pentagon indicated that at least one of the targets in the Houthi crosshairs was an American warship — the USS Carney — in addition to several commercial ships.
“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. The USS Carney is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.
A UK-owned commercial vessel sailing under the flag of Bahamas was also targeted around 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Yemen. The vessel was hit by either a missile or a kamikaze drone, according to the British Maritime Trade Operations agency (UKTMO).
The British Maritime Agency (UKMTO) says it received a report of drone activity and a possible explosion near the Bab al-Mandab Strait in the Red Sea, originating from the direction of Yemen. pic.twitter.com/yRWg4raxXc
— Ariel Oseran (@ariel_oseran) December 3, 2023
The British maritime agency said it had received reports of a drone attack from Yemen and a possible explosion in the Bab al-Mandab Strait, which separates Africa and Asia at the southern tip of the Red Sea. The organization warned vessels sailing in the vicinity to exercise caution.
A coalition force of several multinational navy vessels in the region reportedly responded to distress calls by the attacked vessel.
Last month, American forces aboard the USS Carney in the northern Red Sea shot down at least three surface-to-surface cruise missiles and some 15 drones, all fired by Houthi rebels at Israel from Yemen.
The latest attacks could constitute a significant escalation in the latest series of maritime attacks in the Red Sea linked to the Oct. 7 war launched by Hamas against Israel.