Ships Hit by Houthis 12/04 07:03
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Ballistic missiles fired by Yemen's
Houthi rebels struck three commercial ships Sunday in the Red Sea, while a U.S.
warship shot down three drones in self-defense during the hourslong assault,
the U.S. military said. The Iranian-backed Houthis claimed two of the attacks.
The strikes marked an escalation in a series of maritime attacks in the
Mideast linked to the Israel-Hamas war, as multiple vessels found themselves in
the crosshairs of a single Houthi assault for the first time in the conflict.
The U.S. vowed to "consider all appropriate responses" in the wake of the
attack, specifically calling out Iran, after tensions have been high for years
now over Tehran's rapidly advancing nuclear program.
"These attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and
maritime security," the U.S. military's Central Command said in a statement.
"They have jeopardized the lives of international crews representing multiple
countries around the world."
It added: "We also have every reason to believe that these attacks, while
launched by the Houthis in Yemen, are fully enabled by Iran."
The attack began around 9:15 a.m. local time (0615 GMT) in Houthi-controlled
Sanaa, Yemen's capital, Central Command said.
The USS Carney, a Navy destroyer, detected a ballistic missile fired from
Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen at the Bahamas-flagged bulk carrier Unity
Explorer. The missile hit near the ship, the U.S. said. Shortly afterward, the
Carney shot down a drone headed its way, although it's not clear if the
destroyer was the target, Central Command said.
About 30 minutes later, the Unity Explorer was hit by a missile. While
responding to its distress call, the Carney shot down another incoming drone.
Central Command said the Unity Explorer sustained minor damage from the missile.
Two other commercial ships, the Panamanian-flagged bulk carriers Number 9
and Sophie II, were both struck by missiles. The Number 9 reported some damage
but no casualties, and the Sophie II reported no significant damage, Central
While sailing to assist the Sophie II around 4:30 p.m. local time (1330
GMT), the Carney shot down another drone heading in its direction. The drones
did no damage.
The Carney, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, has shot down
multiple rockets the Houthis have fired toward Israel during that nation's war
against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It hasn't been damaged in any of the incidents
and no injuries have been reported on board. The Defense Department initially
described the assault as simply an attack on the Carney before providing more
Houthi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree claimed two of Sunday's
attacks, saying the first vessel was hit by a missile and the second by a drone
while in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which links the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.
Saree did not mention any U.S. warship being involved.
"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," 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."
Saree also identified the first vessel as the Unity Explorer, which is owned
by a British firm that includes Dan David Ungar, who lives in Israel, as one of
its officers. The Number 9 is linked to Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement.
The Sophie II's owner, Kyowa Kisen of Imabari, Japan, told The Associated
Press that the ship's crew were safe and the vessel did not sustain serious
damage. Managers for the two other ships could not be immediately reached for
Israeli media identified Ungar as being the son of Israeli shipping
billionaire Abraham "Rami" Ungar.
Iran has yet to directly address the attacks. However, Iranian Foreign
Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian threatened "that if the current situation
continues, the region will enter a new phase" over the Israel-Hamas war.
"All parties who are after igniting a war are warned, before it's too late
stop the killing of women and children, of which a new round has started,"
Iran's top diplomat described his comments as coming after conversations
with "resistance forces" in the region -- a description Tehran uses for the
Shiite militias it backs, including groups in Iraq, the Houthis and Lebanon's
Hezbollah, as well as the Sunni fighters of Hamas. All have threatened or
attacked Israel, Iran's regional archrival, during the war.
The Houthis have launched a series of attacks on vessels in the Red Sea, as
well as launching drones and missiles targeting Israel. Analysts suggest the
Houthis hope to shore up waning popular support after years of civil war in
Yemen between it and Saudi-backed forces.
The U.S. has stopped short of saying its Navy ships were targeted, but has
said Houthi drones have headed toward the ships and have been shot down in
self-defense. Washington so far has declined to directly respond to the
attacks, as has Israel, whose military continues to try to describe the ships
as not having links to their country.
Global shipping had increasingly been targeted as the Israel-Hamas war
threatens to become a wider regional conflict -- even as a truce briefly halted
fighting and Hamas exchanged hostages for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
However, the collapse of the truce and the resumption of punishing Israeli
airstrikes on Gaza and a ground offensive there had raised the risk of more
In November, the Houthis seized a vehicle transport ship also linked to
Israel in the Red Sea off Yemen. The rebels still hold the vessel near the port
city of Hodeida. Missiles also landed near another U.S. warship last week after
it assisted a vessel linked to Israel that had briefly been seized by gunmen.
Separately, a container ship owned by an Israeli billionaire recently came
under attack by a suspected Iranian drone in the Indian Ocean.
The Houthis had not directly targeted the Americans for some time, further
raising the stakes in the growing maritime conflict. In 2016, the U.S. launched
Tomahawk cruise missiles that destroyed three coastal radar sites in
Houthi-controlled territory to retaliate for missiles being fired at U.S. Navy
ships at the time.