(CNN) — The USS Carney shot down at least three Houthi drones headed in the ship’s direction in the southern Red Sea on Sunday and responded to a distress call from a civilian commercial vessel that was fired upon by a ballistic missile, a US defense official said.
The drones were part of four attacks against three separate commercial vessels launched by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, US Central Command said in a statement Sunday evening. It’s unclear whether the USS Carney was a target of the drones.
At roughly 9:15 a.m. local time, the Carney “detected an anti-ship ballistic missile attack fired from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen toward the M/V Unity Explorer,” US Central Command said. The missile landed in the ship’s vicinity; the Carney — an Arleigh-Burke class destroyer deployed as part of the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group — was patrolling in the Red Sea at the time.
The Unity Explorer is a Bahamas flagged, UK owned and operated bulk cargo ship, according to CENTCOM.
A few hours later at noon local time, the Carney “destroyed” one Houthi drone while in the southern Red Sea, the defense official said. According to CENTCOM’s release, the drone “was headed toward Carney although its specific target is not clear.”
At roughly the same time, the Unity Explorer was struck by a missile fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen. The Carney responded to the distress call, and while assisting, detected another inbound unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and destroyed it with “no damage or injuries on the Carney or Unity Explorer.”
The Unity Explorer did, however, report “minor damage” from the ballistic missile strike, CENTCOM’s release said.
Two other commercial vessels also were attacked on Sunday, according to CENTCOM. At roughly 3:30 p.m. local time, M/V Number 9, a Panamanian flagged, Bermuda and UK owned and operated vessel, was “struck by a missile” fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen and operating international shipping lanes in the Red Sea. The carrier reported no damage and no casualties.
And at approximately 4:30 p.m. local time, the Carney responded to a distress call from the M/V Sophie II, which was also struck by a missile. On its way to respond, the Carney shot down another UAV headed in its direction. The Sophie II did not report any significant damage, according to CENTCOM.
US Central Command, in its statement, cast the attacks as “a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security.”
“They have jeopardized the lives of international crews representing multiple countries around the world,” the statement said, noting that while these attacks were launched by Houthis in Yemen, the US has reason to believe they were “enabled by Iran.”
“The United States will consider all appropriate responses in full coordination with its international allies and partners,” CENTCOM said.
The Houthi-run Yemeni Armed Forces claimed on Sunday that its naval forces had carried out attacks against what it called “two Israeli ships” in the Red Sea’s Bab al-Mandab strait.
According to Yemeni Armed Forces’ statement, the vessels Unity Explorer and Number Nine were engaged with a naval missile and drone, respectively, after rejecting warning messages.
The Unity Explorer, according to maritime security company Aubrey, was struck by at least two unmanned aerial vehicles, and the Number Nine vessel reportedly incurred physical damage from a UAV.
“The targeting operation came after the two ships rejected warning messages from the Yemeni naval forces,” the statement said. This action, it said, is part of ongoing efforts to obstruct Israeli ships from navigating the Red and Arab seas “until the Israeli aggression against our steadfast brothers in the Gaza Strip stops.”
“The Yemeni Armed Forces renew their warning to all Israeli ships or those associated with Israelis that they will become a legitimate target if they violate what is stated in this statement and previous statements issued by the Yemeni Armed Forces.”
Since Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7, the Iran-backed Houthi forces in Yemen have launched numerous cruise missiles and attack drones toward Israel and US assets in the region, heightening concerns that the Israel-Hamas war could expand further into the region.
Last month, the USS Thomas Hudner shot down multiple one-way attack drones launched from Yemen. And roughly a week ago, two ballistic missiles were fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen toward the USS Mason in the Gulf of Aden, after it responded to a distress call from another commercial tanker that had come under attack by five armed individuals believed to be Somali.
Israel said on October 31 that it thwarted an aerial attack by the Houthis; a spokesperson for the Houthi forces said that strikes against Israel would continue until “Israeli aggression” stops.
Sunday’s attacks also come just a day after aircraft from the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group intercepted an Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle operating “in an unsafe and unprofessional manner” in the Persian Gulf.
Despite the ongoing attacks — including regular attacks on US and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria — US officials have maintained that they believe the Israel-Hamas conflict has not yet spilled over into the region.
“We largely see the conflict contained between Israel and Hamas,” Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said last week. “That’s not to say that you haven’t seen Iranian proxies attempt to take advantage to further their own goals.”
CNN’s Zachary Cohen contributed to this report.
This story has been updated with additional information.
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