Pentagon: US warship, commercial vessels attacked in Red Sea
Some 40% of the Persian Gulf oil destined for Western Europe passes through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait (pictured) in the southern part of the Red Sea. (Photo: NASA)

The area has been plagued by attacks attributed to Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

JNS Staff Report
December 3, 2023

A U.S. Navy destroyer and multiple commercial vessels have come under attack in the Red Sea, the Pentagon said on Sunday.

“We’re aware of reports regarding attacks on the USS Carney and commercial vessels in the Red Sea and will provide information as it becomes available,” the Pentagon said.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press the attacks began around 10 a.m. near Yemen’s capital city, Sana’a, and had gone on for as much as five hours.

That region has been rocked by a series of attacks attributed to Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

In a statement posted to X (formerly Twitter), Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Sarea claimed the group attacked “two Israeli ships in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.”

The statement named the Bahamas-flagged bulk carrier Unity Explorer and the Panama-flagged container ship Number 9 as two of the ships that were attacked with missiles and UAVs. There was no immediate confirmation that there was any Israeli connection to the two vessels.

The Houthis vowed to “continue to prevent Israeli ships from navigating the Red and Arab Seas until the Israeli aggression against our steadfast brothers in the Gaza Strip stops.”

Maritime security company Ambrey said on Sunday that a British cargo ship may have been struck by a missile.

“A British Bahamas-flagged bulk carrier was reportedly attacked by rocket fire while crossing the Red Sea, approximately 34.5 km. [21.5 miles] west-northwest of Mocha, Yemen,” said Ambrey.

“The affected vessel was issuing distress calls relating to piracy/missile attack,” the U.K.-based company added.

On Wednesday, A U.S. Navy vessel shot down a Houthi drone near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which is of vital importance to global shipping, especially for the transportation of oil and natural gas.

U.S. officials told AP that the USS Carney destroyer downed the Iranian-made KAS-04 drone in the southern Red Sea. Intelligence assessments suggest the Carney was likely the drone’s target, one official said.

The incident came a day after U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) reported that an Iranian drone had come within 1,500 yards of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier, which was conducting routine operations in the central Arabian Gulf on Tuesday.

“This unsafe, unprofessional and irresponsible behavior by Iran risks U.S. and partner nation lives and needs to cease immediately,” said the American military.

“U.S. naval forces remain vigilant and will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows while promoting regional maritime security,” it added.

Also last week, the USS Mason destroyer and allied ships—reportedly belonging to Japan—rescued the Israel-linked Central Park tanker, which an “unknown entity” hijacked in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Yemen, CENTCOM confirmed.

During the rescue operation, the U.S. Navy detained five armed hijackers attempting to flee in a small boat. The 22-member crew of the Central Park was uninjured, according to CENTCOM.

“We’re continuing to assess, but initial indications [are] that these five individuals are Somali,” said Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder. “But again, we’ll continue to assess that, as well as next steps in terms of the disposition of those five individuals,” he added.

Concurrently with the attempted hijacking, two ballistic missiles were fired towards the USS Mason from areas controlled by the Houthis in Yemen. The missiles hit 10 nautical miles (11.5 statute miles) away from the vessel, causing no injuries or damage.

“Maritime domain security is essential to regional stability,” said Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla, CENTCOM commander. “We will continue to work with allies and partners to ensure the safety and security of international shipping lanes.”

The Zodiac Maritime ship management company, part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group, had called the attack on the Central Park “a suspected piracy incident.”

Late last month, an Iranian drone attacked an Israeli-owned commercial vessel in the Indian Ocean. The attack on the CMA CGM Symi container ship came a week after Houthi rebels hijacked an Israeli-linked ship in the Red Sea.

On Nov. 19, the Israel Defense Forces confirmed that the Houthis hijacked the Bahamian-flagged Galaxy Leader vehicle carrier, calling it a “very grave incident of global consequence.”

On Nov. 9, Houthi rebels fired a ballistic missile at Eilat, which was intercepted by Israel’s Arrow 3 in the aerial-defense system’s first operational use.

On Oct. 31, Israel’s Arrow 2 air defense system for the first time intercepted a surface-to-surface missile fired from the Red Sea area.

Additionally, dozens of U.S. troops have been wounded in more than 60 attacks by Iranian-backed proxies in Iraq and Syria since Oct. 17, according to the Pentagon.

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