A U.S. Navy destroyer shot down three drones during a sustained attack in the Red Sea on Sunday, the Pentagon said, in what could signal another escalation in the tit-for-tat attacks between the American military and Iranian-backed militants.
A Pentagon official said the U.S.S. Carney shot down the drones as several commercial ships nearby came under fire as part of an attack that began at 9:15 a.m. and lasted for several hours on Sunday. The destroyer intercepted three drones during the attack, United States Central Command said in a statement, including one that was headed in the direction of the Carney. The Pentagon said there were no injuries onboard the destroyer and that the ship was not damaged.
In the statement, Central Command said the attacks originated from areas in Yemen that are controlled by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia. Since the Oct. 7 incursion into Israel led by Hamas, the Houthis based in Yemen have launched a series of attacks — including with drones and missiles — on Israeli and American targets in the Red Sea.
A Houthi military spokesman, Yahya Sarea, said in a statement on Sunday that the militia had targeted two Israeli ships in the area of the Bab al-Mandeb strait off southern Yemen, but did not mention the American naval vessel. The group fired a missile at one ship and targeted a second with a drone, he said, adding that the Houthis would continue to prevent Israeli ships from sailing in the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea until Israel’s military “stops its aggression” in Gaza.
In October, the Carney shot down three cruise missiles and several drones launched from Yemen that the Pentagon said might have been headed toward Israel.
One of the drones on Sunday “was headed toward Carney, although its specific target is not clear,” Central Command said in the statement, adding, “we cannot assess at this time whether the Carney was a target” of the drones.
After Hamas attacked Israel, the Biden administration rushed two aircraft carriers and additional troops to the eastern Mediterranean near Israel to deter Iran and its proxies in the region from expanding the war.
Sunday’s attack underscored the risks that the fight in Gaza could spiral into a wider conflict. For more than a month, Iranian-backed militias have conducted drone and rocket attacks against the 2,500 American troops based in Iraq and the 900 troops in Syria.
In its statement, Central Command said “we have every reason to believe that these attacks, while launched by the Houthis in Yemen, are fully enabled by Iran. The United States will consider all appropriate responses in full coordination with its international allies and partners.”
Shuaib Almosawa contributed reporting.