A U.S. destroyer patrolling in the Red Sea Saturday shot down two ballistic missiles fired from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen while it was responding to a report that a commercial vessel was itself struck by a missile, U.S. authorities said.
Hours later, four boats tried to attack the same U.S. container vessel. U.S. forces opened fire, sinking three of the four boats and killing the crews, U.S. Central Command said. There was no damage to U.S. personnel or equipment.
According to U.S. Central Command, the container ship Maersk Hangzhou — which is Danish-owned but sails under a Singaporean flag — reported at 8:30 p.m. local time that it had been struck by a missile in the Southern Red Sea.
No one was hurt and the ship remained seaworthy, CENTCOM reported in a social media post.
However, while responding to assist the Maersk Hangzhou, the USS Gravely shot down two anti-ship missiles which had been fired from Yemen, CENTCOM said. The missiles appeared to have been directed at the USS Gravely and the USS Laboon, which was also responding to the Maersk Hangzhou, CENTCOM said.
The container ship issued a second distress around 6:30 a.m. local time on Sunday, CENTCOM said, with boats originiating from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen, fired crew served and small arms weapons at the Maersk Hangzhou. CENTCOM said the small boats got within 20 meters of the Maersk Hangzhou, and attempted to board the vessel, leading to a contract security team to return fire.
U.S. helicopters from the USS Eisenhower and Gravely responded to the distress call and in the process of issuing verbal calls to the small boats, the small boats returned fire upon the U.S. helicopters and crew, CENTCOM said. The U.S. Navy helicopters returned fire in self-defense, sinking three of the four small boats, and killing the crews. The fourth boat fled the area.
The Iranian-backed Houthi militant group — which controls large portions of Yemen — has been targeting commercial vessels in the Red Sea since Hamas terrorists invaded Israel on Oct. 7, slaughtering at least 1,200 people and sparking the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
According to CENTCOM, Saturday’s incident was the 23rd such attack by the Houthis on international shipping vessels since Nov. 19.
Earlier this month, CENTCOM reported that the USS Carney, a guided missile destroyer, shot down 14 attack drones suspected to have been fired from Houthi-controlled Yemen.
The White House last week accused Tehran of being “deeply involved” in the spate of Red Sea attacks by Houthi rebels on commercial vessels, an allegation which Iran’s deputy foreign minister denied.
The Pentagon reported that on Dec. 23, a chemical tanker off the coast of India was struck by a drone which had been fired from Iran. That ship sailed under a Liberian flag and was Dutch-operated. No one was wounded.
And in a Nov. 15 interview with CBS News, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian also denied that Iran was responsible for a drone fired from Yemen that was shot down by the guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner. The drone appeared to be targeting the Hudner, U.S. officials said at the time.
“We really didn’t want this crisis to expand,” Amir-Abdollahian told CBS News, referencing the Israel-Hamas war. “But the U.S. has been intensifying the war in Gaza by throwing its support behind Israel. Yemen makes its own decisions and acts independently.”
Last week, energy giant BP announced it was temporarily suspending all gas and oil shipments in the Red Sea because of the attacks.
Home furnishing giant Ikea also said that it could soon face shortages because major shippers were being forced to bypass the Red Sea, which links the Red Sea to the Mediterranean and marks the shortest trade route between Europe and Asia, according to the Freights Baltic Index.