An American warship and two commercial vessels were attacked in the Red Sea Sunday, the Pentagon said, a possible major increase in aggression in Middle Eastern waters, where Iran-backed Yemeni rebels have escalated attacks on Western and Israeli-linked ships.
The Pentagon confirmed the attack Sunday, shortly after British officials said they received reports of drone attacks in the Red Sea’s Bab al-Mandab Strait, though neither government provided details, including who was responsible for the attack.
An anonymous U.S. official told the Associated Press the attacks lasted for about five hours in Sanaa, Yemen.
A second anonymous government source said the USS Carney intercepted at least one drone in the attack, the AP reported.
The attacks come as Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have been targeting Israel amid its war with Hamas.
The group said in a statement Sunday it attacked two “Israeli” ships, the first with a missile and the second with a drone, the Times of Israel reported, though it remains unclear if the U.S. Navy ship was among the two the group said it attacked.
Houthi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree said the group attacked the ships when they ignored prior warnings from the Houthis. He said the first ship is the Bahamas-flagged Unity Explorer bulk carrier, which is owned by a British firm, while the second ship attacked was a Panamanian-flagged container ship, the Number 9.
The Houthis seized a car carrier ship linked to an Israeli billionaire last month and took its 25 crew members hostage. The rebel group said in a statement at the time that “all ships belonging to the Israeli enemy or that deal with it will become legitimate targets,” calling the seizure “a practical step that proves the seriousness of the Yemeni armed forces in waging the sea battle.” The ship, named the Galaxy Leader, and its crew, are being held at the Yemeni port of Hodeida.