US-led coalition shoots down dozens of Houthi drones in largest Red Sea attack

US confirms forces were responding to a large-scale attack by 'Iranian-backed Houthi terrorists'

British warship shoots down Houthi drones. Photo: UK Defence
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Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels on Saturday launched the largest drone attack in the Red Sea to date, claiming to target bulk carrier Propel Fortune in the Gulf of Aden, as well as US-led coalition vessels.

The militants launched assaults on "US war destroyers in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden with 37 drones", spokesman Yahya Saree said in a televised speech on Saturday. The last attack close to this size was on January 9, when a swarm of dozens of drones was fired at ships in the Red Sea, with the US and UK shooting down 21 of them.

On Sunday, the US confirmed the full magnitude of the attack, saying 12 more drones had been shot down than originally reported.

Attacks on Saturday were intercepted by ships from two naval coalitions, the US-led Operation Prosperity Guardian, which includes Britain, Canada and Bahrain, among others, and the EU-led Aspides operation, which includes French, German, Greek, Spanish and Italian warships.

It marks the latest attacks by the Iranian-backed group on Red Sea shipping, which makes up about 12 per cent of global seaborne trade.

US Central Command said American and coalition forces downed at least 28 drones in four hours on Saturday morning.

"No US or Coalition Navy vessels were damaged in the attack and there were also no reports by commercial ships of damage," it said in a statement to X.

A French warship and fighter jets also shot down four combat drones that were advancing towards naval vessels belonging to the European Aspides mission in the region, a French army statement said.

"This defensive action directly contributed to the protection of the cargo ship True Confidence, under the Barbados flag, which was struck on March 6 and is being towed, as well as other commercial vessels transiting in the area," it said.

Britain's Ministry of Defence said its warship HMS Richmond had joined international allies in repelling a Houthi drone attack overnight, saying no injuries or damage were sustained.

"Last night, HMS Richmond used its Sea Ceptor missiles to shoot down two attack drones - successfully repelling yet another illegal attack by the Iranian-backed Houthis," defence minister Grant Shapps said on X.

Houthi campaign

Since November 21, the Houthis have been attacking vessels in the international waterway, as part of their pressure campaign over Israel's war on the Gaza Strip, which started on October 7 after a large-scale Hamas attack on southern Israel.

The attacks have killed civilian seafarers, caused major disruption to global shipping, and posed an environmental threat after a bulk carrier transporting 21,000 tonnes of fertiliser sunk in the Red Sea.

The Houthis are allies of the Palestinian group Hamas and say they will not stop the Red Sea attacks until Israel halts its bombardment and ground invasion of the Strip, which has so far killed about 31,000 Palestinians.

Mr Saree repeated that the group would continue its attacks "until the aggression stops and the siege on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip is lifted".

The UAVs were determined to present "an imminent threat to merchant vessels, US Navy, and coalition ships in the region," the US said.

On Friday, the US said it also conducted air strikes that destroyed two Houthi vehicle-mounted anti-ship missiles in Yemen.

The rebels did not directly acknowledge any destruction from those strikes.

Britain has also stepped up its defence against Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

The HMS Richmond shot down Houthi drones on Friday in the first use of Sea Ceptor missiles by a ship of its kind, the Royal Navy said on Saturday night.

The Houthis have held vast areas of northern Yemen and the country's capital of Sanaa since 2014.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said on Wednesday the US would continue to hold Yemen's Houthis accountable for attacks on international shipping.

Updated: March 10, 2024, 10:18 AM