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US Repels Houthi Attacks on International Vessels in Red Sea 

FILE - The American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower is seen in a July 14, 2012, photo.
FILE - The American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower is seen in a July 14, 2012, photo.

U.S. Navy helicopters sank three of four small boats used by Yemen’s Houthi rebels to attack a merchant vessel in the southern Red Sea on Sunday, U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, said on social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

Helicopters from the USS Eisenhower and USS Gravely, responding to distress calls from the Maersk Hangzhou, returned fire on the Houthi boats and sank three of the vessels. There were no survivors. The fourth boat fled the area.

This was the second time in less than 24 hours that the Iran-backed Houthis attacked the Singapore-flagged Maersk Hangzhou container vessel.

Earlier Sunday, the U.S. military shot down two anti-ship ballistic missiles by the Houthi rebels in the Red Sea targeting the container ship.

"This is the 23rd illegal attack by the Houthis on international shipping since Nov. 19," CENTCOM said.

The increased attacks in the Red Sea prompted many shipping companies to reroute vessels earlier in December, avoiding the Red Sea until further notice.

The attacks by the Houthi rebels, a show of support for the Palestinian militant group Hamas fighting Israel in Gaza, target a route that allows East-West trade, especially of oil, that uses the Suez Canal to save the time and expense of circumnavigating Africa.

The Houthis have claimed attacks on ships in the Red Sea that they say are either linked to Israel or heading to Israeli ports. They say their attacks are retaliatory for Israel’s air-and-ground offensive in the Gaza Strip following the terror attack by Hamas in southern Israel on Oct.7.

The United States, United Kingdom, and other countries, including European Union nations, designated Hamas a terrorist group after the Oct. 7 attack in which 1,200 civilians were killed and around 240 others taken hostage.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said Sunday he had made clear in a call with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian that Iran shares responsibility in preventing the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

"I made clear that Iran shares responsibility for preventing these attacks, given their long-standing support to the Houthis,” he said in a post on X, adding that the incidents "threaten innocent lives and the global economy."

On Saturday, the top commander of U.S. naval forces in the Middle East said Houthi rebels have shown no signs of ending their "reckless" attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea even as more nations join the international maritime mission to protect vessels in the vital waterway and trade traffic begins to pick up.

Since the Pentagon announced Operation Prosperity Guardian to counter the attacks just over a week ago, 1,200 merchant ships have traveled through the Red Sea region, and none has been hit by drone or missile strikes, Vice Adm. Brad Cooper said in an Associated Press interview.

Some material for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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