US warship intercepts missiles and drones near Yemen

Missiles were possibly headed to Israel

The USS Carney in the Mediterranean Sea in 2018. US Navy / AP
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A US warship operating in the Red Sea on Thursday intercepted several drones and missiles that had been launched by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen and were possibly headed towards targets in Israel, the Pentagon said.

Pentagon Press Secretary Brig Gen Pat Ryder said the USS Carney shot down three land-attack cruise missiles and several drones in the northern Red Sea.

"We cannot say for certain what these missiles and drones were targeting, but they were launched from Yemen heading north along the Red Sea, potentially towards targets in Israel," Brig Gen Ryder told reporters.

They were "launched by Houthi forces in Yemen", he said, and were brought down over the ocean.

There were no known casualties to US forces or anyone else, as far as the Pentagon was aware.

"This action was a demonstration of the integrated air and missile defence architecture that we have built in the Middle East and that we are prepared to utilise whenever necessary to protect our partners and our interests in this important region," Brig Gen Ryder said.

Washington is on heightened alert for activity by Iran-backed groups as regional tensions soar during the Israel-Gaza war.

The US is sending bombs and ammunition to its ally Israel as it bombards Gaza before an expected ground invasion.

Houthi rebels have expressed support for the Palestinians and threatened Israel. Last week in Sanaa, demonstrators crowded the streets waving Yemeni and Palestinian flags.

Abdul Malek Al Houthi, the rebel group’s leader, has warned the US against intervening in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, threatening that his forces would retaliate by firing drones and missiles, AP reported.

Thursday's interceptions were the latest in a series of incidents involving drones and US forces in the region.

On Wednesday, the US Al Tanf base in Syria was targeted by two drones.

US and coalition forces destroyed one, while the other drone hit the base, resulting in minor injuries to coalition troops, Brig Gen Ryder said.

Also on Wednesday, the US military shot down three drones in western Iraq.

Late on Thursday, drones and rockets again targeted Al Asad air base in Iraq, and blasts were heard inside the base, two security sources said told Reuters.

The Iraqi military said it closed the area around the base and started a search operation. It was not clear yet whether the attacks caused casualties or damage, said the sources.

“You have to look at these [attacks] individually. We’re taking them seriously and responding appropriately,” Brig Gen Ryder said.

“Our focus is on deterring a broader regional conflict, and right now this conflict is contained between Israel and Hamas.

"Any response, should one occur, will come at a time and in a manner of our choosing."

Another incident in Iraq on Wednesday saw US early warning systems indicate a possible threat approaching Al Asad airbase, which hosts US and other international forces in western Iraq.

Ultimately, no attack occurred but a civilian contractor died from a "cardiac event" while sheltering, Brig Gen Ryder said.

The Pentagon has sent significant naval power to the Middle East in the past week, including two aircraft carriers, their support ships and about 2,000 Marines.

The USS Carney arrived in the Red Sea on Wednesday to “help ensure maritime security and stability in the Middle East region", the US Navy's Fleet Forces said in a message on X, formerly Twitter.

Updated: October 20, 2023, 4:19 AM