The Pentagon said it was investigating reports that a US warship and some commercial ships in the Red Sea were attacked by drones off the coast of Yemen, apparently by the country’s Houthi rebels.
“We are aware of reports of attacks on the USS Carney and commercial ships in the Red Sea and will provide information when it becomes available,” the US Department of Defense said in a short statement on Sunday afternoon.
Shortly after, the Houthis said they targeted two commercial ships on Sunday with an armed drone and a naval missile. A spokesman for the group said that two ships, the Unity Explorer and No. 9, were targeted after they rejected warnings from the group’s navy.
The group said the ships were Israeli, although according to the Maritime Traffic website, the Unity Explorer flag was flown in the Bahamas and Flag No. 9 was raised in Panama. Both are recorded as being in the Red Sea region or having recently been there.
Israeli army spokesman Admiral Daniel Hagari said the ships “have no connection to the State of Israel.”
He said: “One ship has been seriously damaged and is in distress and appears to be in danger of sinking. Another ship has also suffered minor damage.”
The Houthis in Yemen, backed by Iran, have launched several missile and drone attacks on Israel since the start of the war on Gaza on October 7. They are not believed to have caused any serious damage.
Recently, the rebel group has intensified its targeting of commercial ships sailing in the Red Sea, which is located south of the Suez Canal, a strategic sea route between Europe, Asia, and East Africa.
Two weeks ago, the Houthis released a dramatic video of masked gunmen seizing the Galaxy Leader, a British-owned and Japanese-operated cargo ship, after landing a helicopter on its deck. The group claimed to be Israeli-owned, but there is no immediate evidence to support this.
A week later, at the end of November, the US warship USS Mason captured five attackers who attempted to seize control of the Central Park, a commercial tanker carrying a cargo of phosphoric acid.
The US military said that in the incident, two ballistic missiles were launched from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen towards the general location of the two ships, but they landed 10 nautical miles away in the Gulf of Aden.
Maritime security specialists told Reuters on Sunday that an unnamed cargo ship was hit by at least two drones in the Red Sea. Another container ship was damaged by a drone attack about 63 miles northwest of the port of Hodeidah in northern Yemen, one of the companies, Embry, said.
Earlier, the British Maritime Trade Operations Agency said that it had received reports of a drone attack in the Bab al-Mandab Strait in the Red Sea, between Yemen, Djibouti and Eritrea. The authority called on nearby ships to be careful.
The Pentagon said that in mid-October, the US destroyer USS Carney shot down three missiles launched from the ground in addition to several drones launched by Houthi militants. At the time, the United States said the missiles were “likely headed toward Israel” as justification for its action.
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