US warship attacked in Red Sea near Yemen
The USS Carney fires at Houthi attackers in the Red Sea in December. Photo: AAP
Houthi attackers have claimed responsibility after three commercial ships in the Red Sea were struck by ballistic missiles fired from Yemen on Sunday and a US warship shot down three drones in an assault that lasted hours, the US military says.
The Houthi group controls Yemen and is backed by Iran.
“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 Monday morning Australian time.
The Houthi movement said its navy had attacked two Israeli ships, Unity Explorer and Number Nine, with an armed drone and a naval missile.
A representative for the group’s military said the two ships were targeted after they rejected warnings, without elaborating.
In a broadcast statement the spokesperson said the attacks were in response to the demands of the Yemeni people and calls from Muslim countries to stand with the Palestinian people.
“The Yemeni armed forces continue to prevent Israeli ships from navigating the Red Sea [and Gulf of Aden] until the Israeli aggression against our steadfast brothers in the Gaza Strip stops,” Houthi military spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Saree said.
“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.”
The incident marks an escalation in a series of attacks in Middle Eastern waters since war broke out between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas on October 7.
US Central Command said the three commercial ships and their crews were connected to 14 countries.
“[These attacks] represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security. They have jeopardised the lives of international crews representing multiple countries around the world,” it said.
An Israeli-linked cargo ship was seized last month by the Houthis. 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.
US broadcaster 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.
British maritime security company Ambrey said earlier that a bulk carrier and a container ship had been hit by at least two drones while sailing in the Red Sea.
Ambrey said the container ship had reportedly suffered damage from a drone attack about 100 kilometres north-west of the northern Yemeni port of Hodeidah.
The UK Maritime Trade Operations agency (UKMTO) said it had received reports of a drone attack in the Red Sea’s Bab al-Mandab strait.
Last week a US navy warship responded to a distress call from an Israeli-managed commercial tanker in the Gulf of Aden after it had been seized by armed individuals.