Iranian-backed Houthi insurgents in Yemen launched armed drones and missiles in a five-hour-long attack targeting a U.S. warship and several commercial ships in the Red Sea, the Pentagon said Sunday, with at least one of the missiles hitting a Bahamas-flagged cargo vessel.
“Houthi forces attacked multiple commercial vessels in the Red Sea early this morning,” the Defense Department said. “The USS Carney lended aid in some circumstances and shot down Houthi drones that were headed in its general direction.”
It said the Carney, a guided missile destroyer, shot down two of the drones, in what could be a further escalation in a string of maritime attacks in the Middle East linked to the nearly two-month-old Israel-Hamas war. The U.S. ship was not damaged in the incident.
The U.S. has in recent weeks shot down several drones headed toward Israel that were launched from Yemen, and in Sunday’s attack, the Pentagon said it responded to a distress call from the Unity Explorer, which said it was under attack from missile fire.
A Houthi military spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree, claimed the attacks, saying the rebels hit one vessel with a missile and another with a drone while in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait that links the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.
"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 hit 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 Houthi spokesperson said the second hit was a Panamanian-flagged container ship called Number 9, which is linked to Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement.
Israeli media have identified Ungar as being the son of Israeli shipping billionaire Abraham (Rami) Ungar.
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.