Saudi Arabia has become a reluctant, but effective partner with the United States in defending the State of Israel from Iran and its Middle Eastern proxies.
Four Iranian cruise missiles and at least 15 drones launched by the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen were intercepted by the USS Carney in the northern Red Sea, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal and several other news outlets.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer used SM-2 surface-to-air missiles and a five-inch gun to shoot them down in a battle that lasted nine hours.
A fifth cruise missile was intercepted by Saudi Arabia’s aerial defense system, which WSJ said was protecting its own airspace.
Each of the missiles had a range of about 2,000 kilometers (about 1,240 miles) – easily able to reach Israel – and carried a 410 kg (904 lb) warhead. Each of the suicide drones intercepted by the USS Carney carried a warhead of 40 kg (about 88 lb).
To get a better sense of the scale of this attack and what it would have meant had those missiles reached Israel, consider this: The average long-range missile fired at Israel by Gaza’s Iranian-backed Hamas terrorists carries a warhead of about 60 kg (132 lb). One such missile landed on a house in the Samaria community of Alfei Menashe earlier this week and demolished the structure.
There appears to be no doubt the attack was, indeed, intended to reach the Jewish State: A US Defense Department source told the Daily Mail that the missiles were “clearly headed for Israel.”
Israeli officials said the missiles were likely targeting strategic facilities in the Port of Eilat, and/or the hotel district in the city, where evacuees from the massacre in southern Israel are currently being housed.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a stark warning to Iran on Tuesday (Oct. 24) during the United Nations Security Council’s monthly meeting on the Middle East.
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“The United States does not seek conflict with Iran; we do not want this war to widen,” Blinken said. “But if Iran or its proxies attack US personnel anywhere, make no mistake, we will defend our people, we will defend our security, swiftly and decisively.”
Blinken’s warning followed a series of attacks on US military bases in eastern Syria and Iraq, the latest involving a coordinated missile and drone attack the day before (October 23). It was the second attack in three days on the US base at Al Tanf, the largest natural gas and oil field in Syria. Multiple other US bases were also targeted in the region.
The Pentagon has deployed nearly a dozen air defense systems to its allies in the region in advance of the expected Israeli invasion of Gaza. Missile launchers have been moved to Iraq, Syria, and Arab allies in the Gulf.
As part of that plan, the Pentagon expects to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), to Saudi Arabia, and Patriot surface-to-air missile systems to Kuwait, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. All are expected to be in place by the end of this week.