Missiles believed to originate from Iran-allied Shiite Houthi rebels targeted the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Mason again in international waters off the coast of war-ravaged Yemen over the weekend.
“We are aware of the reports and we are assessing the situation. All of our ships and crews are safe and unharmed,” an unnamed U.S. defense official told CNN.
“There are initial unconfirmed reports of missiles possibly being fired from positions both ashore on Yemen and by small spotter boats operated by Houthi rebels,” adds the network.
According to various news outlets, the latest incident occurred Saturday.
The following day, Al Jazeera reported that the most recent incident would bring the number of attacks targeting the Mason and other U.S. Navy ships to three in about a week. The Shiite Houthi rebels have denied receiving military aid from Iran and carrying out the recent missile attacks.
In August, Iran denied accusations by U.S. Secretary John Kerry that it has delivered “missiles and other sophisticated weapons” to the Houthis in Yemen.
A coalition led by Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia in coordination with armed groups loyal to the internationally-recognized government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi have been combating then Houthis and their allies since March 2015.
The United States and Britain, both of which have provided support to the Saudi-led alliance, called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire on Sunday between the two warring sides.
Citing two unnamed U.S. officials, NBC News, which first reported the latest incident, noted that the USS Mason “deployed countermeasures and the vessel was not struck.”
The officials reportedly revealed that “at least one missile was fired.”
“US officials initially said that surface-to-surface missiles had been fired at the USS Mason, USS Nitze and USS Ponce off the coast of Yemen starting around 19:30 GMT, though it was unclear how many,” adds Al Jazeera.
Nevertheless, CNN reports, “Earlier Saturday night, a second [unnamed] US defense official said there were multiple incoming surface-to-surface missiles detected by the Mason.”
The U.S. military confirmed the attack on the USS Mason during a press briefing, but failed to mention how many missiles were fired.
“The Mason once again appears to have come under attack in the Red Sea, again from coastal defense cruise missiles fired from the coast of Yemen,” Navy Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, told reporters at an event in Baltimore Saturday.
Last Thursday, the U.S. Navy reportedly launched five Tomahawk cruise missiles at three mobile radar sites in Houthi-held territory along Yemen’s Red Sea coast, in self defense after the fighters in the area fired rockets at the USS Mason at least twice in four days.
Al Jazeera reports:
Though the US is providing logistical support to the Arab coalition battling the Houthis, Thursday’s launches marked the first time the US has taken direct action against the group.
But the US strikes earlier this week did not take out Houthi missiles, and though the radar destruction makes it harder to aim the weapons, officials say the fighters could still use spotter boats or online ship-tracking websites to find new targets.
Although the Shiite Houthis still hold the Yemeni capital Sanaa and large areas of northern and western Yemen, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Monday that the rebels are on their last last legs, notes Reuters.
“The momentum is going against them in Yemen. They’re losing more territory, more people are mobilized against them. They are not paying their bills, businesses are not extending credit to them,” declared Jubeir.
It remains unclear if the Houthis have agreed to take part in the proposed ceasefire.