Central Command Says Houthi Attacks Against Ships ‘Fully Enabled by Iran’

This Nov. 12, 2018 photo shows The USS Carney in the Mediterranean Sea. The American warsh
Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ryan U. Kledzik/U.S. Navy via AP

A U.S. destroyer shot down multiple drones while responding to several Houthi ballistic missile attacks against an Israeli-owned and other ships in the southern Red Sea, deepening U.S. military involvement in the Middle East amid the Israel-Hamas war.

Central Command announced in a statement on Sunday there were four ballistic missile attacks against three separate commercial ships in the Red Sea — including an Israeli-owned ship. While responding to those attacks, a U.S. destroyer, the USS Carney, shot down two drones.

Centcom said in its statement the attacks were launched by the Houthis in Yemen, but “fully enabled by Iran,” and hinted at a response.

“These attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security. They have jeopardized the lives of international crews representing multiple countries around the world. We also have every reason to believe that these attacks, while launched by the Houthis in Yemen, are fully enabled by Iran. The United States will consider all appropriate responses in full coordination with its international allies and partners,” it said.

The attacks began at 9:15 a.m. local time, when the Carney detected an anti-ship ballistic missile fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen at the M/V Unity Explorer.

File/The guided-missile destroyer USS Carney in Souda Bay, Greece. The American warship and multiple commercial ships came under attack Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023 in the Red Sea, potentially marking a major escalation in a series of maritime attacks in the Mideast linked to the Israel-Hamas war.  (Petty Officer 3rd Class Bill Dodge/U.S. Navy via AP)

Central Command said the vessel was “Bahamas flagged, U.K. owned and operated” and “crewed by sailors from two nations.” However, USNI News and the website Balticshipping.com lists the ship as owned by Tel Aviv-based Ray Shipping.

According to Centcom, at approximately 12 p.m., Carney engaged and shot down a drone launched also from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen. “The drone was headed toward CARNEY although its specific target it not clear,” Centcom said.

“We cannot assess at this time whether the Carney was a target of the UAVs. There was no damage to the U.S. vessel or injuries to personnel,” Centcom said.

Then, at approximately 12:35 p.m., the Unity Explorer reported in a distress call they were struck by a missile fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen, which the Carney then responded to.

While the Carney was assisting the damage assessment, it detected another inbound drone, which it destroyed with no damage or injuries.

Then, at 3:30 p.m., another commercial ship, the M/V NUMBER 9, was struck by a missile fired from Houthi-controlled parts of Yemen, resulting in damage but no casualties. The ship was Panamanian-flagged, and Bermuda and U.K. owned and operated, according to Centcom. The Associated Press said the ship was linked to Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement.

At approximately 4:30 p.m., another commercial vessel, the M/V SOPHIE II, sent a distress call stating they were struck by a missile. When the Carney was heading to the ship to render support, it shot down another drone “headed in its direction.” Centcom said the ship was Panamanian-flagged, and crewed by sailors from eight countries, but did not say who it was owned or operated by.

Centcom said the three vessels attacked are “connected to 14 separate nations,” in a seeming attempt to downplay any connection between the attacks to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. Its statement was headlined as “Houthi Attacks on Commercial Shipping.”

While the statement appeared to disconnect the attacks to the ongoing war, an X account claiming to be run by Houthi military spokesman, and cited by the Associated Press, posted that the attacks were directly linked to the war:

Houthi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree posted:

1-In compliance with the instructions of Al Sayyed Abdul-Malik al-Houthi and in response to the demands of our great Yemeni people as well as the calls of free people of our Arab and Islamic nations to fully support the Palestinian people’s and the free resistance choices.

2-This morning, the naval forces carried out a targeting operation against two Israeli ships in Bab al-Mandab, namely the “Unity Explorer” ship and the “NUMBER 9” ship. The first Israeli ship was targeted by an anti-ship missile, while the second ship was targeted by a sea drone

3- The two ships were targeted after rejecting warnings from the Yemeni naval forces. The Yemeni armed forces continues to prevent Israeli ships from navigating in the Red and Arab Seas until the Israeli aggression against our steadfast brothers in the Gaza Strip stops

4-The Yemeni Armed Forces renew it’s warning to all Israeli vessels or those linked to Israelis that they will become a legitimate target if they violate what stated in this and previous Yemeni Armed Forces statements.

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