United States and United Kingdom forces in the Red Sea have countered a large Houthi attack directed at merchant vessels in international shipping lanes, shooting down dozens of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and missiles.
US Central Command said the attack started in the morning of 9 January when “Iranian-backed Houthis launched a complex attack of Iranian designed one-way attack UAVs (OWA UAVs), anti-ship cruise missiles, and an anti-ship ballistic missile from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen into the Southern Red Sea, towards international shipping lanes where dozens of merchant vessels were transiting.”
Eighteen of the UAVs, two anti-ship cruise missiles, and one anti-ship ballistic missile were shot down by a combined effort of F/A-18s from the US Navy vessels USS Dwight D Eisenhower, USS Gravely, USS Laboon, USS Mason, and the United Kingdom’s HMS Diamond.
This was the 26th Houthi attack on commercial shipping lanes in the Red Sea since 19 November, Central Command stated, adding there were no injuries or damage reported from the latest attack.
On 3 January, 14 countries, including the US, issued a joint statement stating, “The Houthis will bear the responsibility for the consequences should they continue to threaten lives, the global economy, or the free flow of commerce in the region’s critical waterways.”
The statement was issued after the launch of Operation Prosperity Guardian to protect Red Sea shipping. At least 20 countries have, according to the United States Department of Defence, signed on to be part of Operation Prosperity Guardian, first made public in December.
British Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said Tuesday’s attack was the largest attack in the area by the militants to date as the three-month-long war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza spills over into other parts of the Middle East, and hinted at future possible action by the UK and its partners.
Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Saree said they fired a large number of ballistic and naval missiles and UAVs at a US ship that was “providing support” to Israel. The Houthis also said they targeted the US ship in retaliation for the killing of rebels who tried to attack a container ship by using speed boats last month.
The attacks have disrupted international commerce on the key route between Europe and Asia that accounts for about 15% of the world’s shipping traffic, forcing ships to make the longer journey around Africa.