CAIRO: The United States intercepted and shot down four drones launched from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen, targeting a US destroyer in the southern Red Sea, as reported by US Central Command (CENTCOM). This incident marks the 14th and 15th attacks on commercial shipping by Houthi militants since October 17, according to CENTCOM.
Houthi rebels, aligned with Iran and controlling significant parts of Yemen, have disrupted global trade with ongoing attacks on ships passing through the Bab al-Mandab Strait at the southern end of the Red Sea. They justify these actions as a response to Israel’s conflict in Gaza.
The US Naval Forces Central Command responded to distress calls from two attacked ships. The Norwegian-flagged, -owned, and -operated chemical/oil tanker Blaamanen reported a near miss in a Houthi drone attack. Simultaneously, a Gabon-owned, Indian-flagged crude oil tanker reported being hit by a one-way attack, as per CENTCOM’s announcement.
Hansa Tankers, the operator of Blaamanen, stated that due to the close proximity, their master alerted the US Navy, which promptly arrived on the scene to provide protection. The Indian tanker, struck by the drone, was sailing in front of the Norwegian ship. The Norwegian tanker, transporting non-flammable vegetable oil from Europe to India, and its crew were unharmed, proceeding with their planned route.
In addition to the drone attacks, CENTCOM reported that two Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles were fired into international shipping lanes in the Southern Red Sea from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. Fortunately, no ships reported being impacted by the ballistic missiles.
This development comes amidst heightened tensions in the region, prompting the United States to launch Operation Prosperity Guardian, involving joint patrols in Red Sea waters near Yemen with the participation of over a dozen countries. The Houthi actions have obstructed the passage of ships through the Bab al-Mandab Strait.