By , CNN
The US Navy shot down 21 Houthi missiles and drones launched from Yemen, according to a statement from US Central Command, in one of the largest Houthi attacks to take place in the Red Sea in recent months.
The military called it a “complex attack” carried out by the Iranian-backed militants. It comes amid increasing tensions around Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza and fears it could spill over into a wider regional conflict.
The barrage, launched at about 9:15 p.m. Tuesday in Yemen, included 18 one-way attack drones, two anti-ship cruise missiles and one anti-ship ballistic missile, Central Command said. The attack was launched toward international shipping lanes in the southern Red Sea where “dozens” of merchant vessels were traveling, according to the statement.
Two defense officials had earlier told CNN that the barrage included a total of 24 drones and missiles.
There were no ships damaged in the attacks and no injuries as a result of the massive drone and missile launch, CENTCOM said.
In a statement, Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Saree said Tuesday’s attack was a “coordinated offensive” targeting an American ship “aiding” Israel in the Red Sea, in response to what he described as a “treacherous attack” by US forces on Houthi naval units on last week.
Three destroyers took part in the US shoot down of the barrage, one of the defense officials said.
Two US destroyers, as well as F-18 fighter jets from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier, participated in the combined effort to shoot down the missiles and drones, according to Central Command. The HMS Diamond, an air defence destroyer from the UK’s Royal Navy, was also part of the effort.
The US and other nations have a number of ships in the Red Sea as part of Operation Prosperity Guardian, a multi-national effort to safeguard shipping in one of the world’s most critical waterways. The coalition consists of more than 20 countries.
The launch comes as the UN Security Council votes on Wednesday morning on a US-led resolution condemning the spate of Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.
It also coincides with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to the Middle East, an attempt to contain the Gaza war and prevent a regional escalation.
Blinken was in Israel on Tuesday, where he told officials that Palestinians in Gaza must be allowed to return to their homes “as soon as conditions allow.” The secretary has repeatedly called on the Israeli government to reduce the number of civilian casualties as a result of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.
Who are the Houthis and why are they stepping up attacks? CNN reporter breaks it down
02:04 – Source: CNN
The Iran-backed Houthis have said their launches of drones and missiles are showing solidarity with the Palestinian people. Their first series of attacks, which began shortly after the start of the Israel-Hamas war, targeted commercial vessels with some connection to Israel. To date, the Houthis have carried out 26 attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea, according to Central Command.
But most of the last dozen attacks had no connection to Israel at all, Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the commander of US Naval Central Command, said last week, even as it draws more nations into the situation.
The US assesses that 55 nations have direct connections to the ships that have been attacked, whether through the flagging state of the ship, the nationality of the crew, the ship’s origin and destination, or the vessels’ ownership.
“The impact of these attacks spreads across the globe, and as we’ve said, this is an international problem that requires an international solution,” Cooper said.
In a joint statement last week, the US and about a dozen other countries condemned the continuing Houthi attacks, warning, “The Houthis will bear the responsibility of the consequences should they continue to threaten lives, the global economy, and free flow of commerce in the region’s critical waterways.”
Central Command reiterated that threat in the statement about the latest attack.
The Houthis are believed to have been armed and trained by Iran, and there are fears that their recurrent attacks could escalate Israel’s war against Hamas into a regional conflict.
A senior Hezbollah commander was killed in an Israeli drone strike on his car in southern Lebanon on Monday, a Lebanese security source told CNN, the latest in a string of Israeli strikes on key Hamas and Hezbollah targets there and in Syria.
The Houthis’ attacks against commercial vessels, which have occurred almost daily since December 9, meanwhile have the potential to cause shocks to the global economy by preventing shipping through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea.