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U.S. shoots down drones in Red Sea, blames Houthis for attacks on commercial ships

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A U.S. warship in the Red Sea shot down at least three drones Sunday, according to a U.S. military statement. Initial assessments indicated that at least one of the drones was launched from a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen.

The shootdowns occurred as the Carney was responding to distress calls following four attacks against three separate commercial vessels in the southern Red Sea, U.S. Central Command (Centcom) said.

“These attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security. They have jeopardized the lives of international crews representing multiple countries around the world,” Centcom said in a statement. “We also have every reason to believe that these attacks, while launched by the Houthis in Yemen, are fully enabled by Iran.”

Brig. Gen. Yahya Sarea, the Houthi military spokesman, said in a televised address that the attack was launched in solidarity with Palestinians. He said his Yemen-based force targeted the Unity Explorer and another ship “after they rejected warning messages from the Yemeni naval forces.”

“We renew our warning to all Israeli ships or those associated with Israelis that they will become a legitimate target if they violate the statements of our armed forces,” Sarea said. It was not clear what warning they gave. The Houthis are a rebel movement that controls much of Yemen’s north.

Hijacking attempt on Israel-linked ship thwarted by U.S. Navy

The first incident occurred at roughly 9:15 a.m. local time when the Carney detected an anti-ship ballistic missile launch from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen toward a bulk cargo ship named Unity Explorer, “impacting in the vicinity of the vessel,” Centcom said.

Three hours later, the Carney shot down a drone “launched from Houthi controlled areas in Yemen,” Centcom added. “The drone was headed toward Carney although its specific target is not clear.”

In another attack at 12:35 p.m., Unity Explorer reported they were struck by a missile fired from Houthi controlled areas in Yemen, suffering minor damage, Centcom said. The Carney again responded to the distress call, and sailors detected another inbound drone and shot it down.

At about 3:30 p.m., a container ship called Number 9 was struck by a missile fired from Houthi controlled areas in Yemen, Centcom said. Bernhard Schulte, which manages the Number 9, confirmed the vessel was “hit by a projectile” while sailing through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. There were no reports of injuries nor pollution, according to Kyle Fawkes, a crisis manager working for Bernhard Schulte.

An hour later, a third ship, the Sophie II, sent a distress call stating they were hit by a missile. Carney again responded to the incident and reported no significant damage, but once more shot down a drone “headed in its direction,” Centcom said.

Israel has no connection to the vessels involved in the incidents, Israel Defense Forces spokesman Daniel Hagari told Reuters.

U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria have faced near-daily assaults from rocket fire and one-way attack drones since Israeli operations in Gaza began, recording at least 76 attacks since Oct. 17, according to data provided by a U.S. defense official who spoke to The Post on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of ongoing operations.

The United States has responded at times, including airstrikes targeting militants in Iraq after a close range ballistic missile attack on Nov. 20, the first use of such weapons in this stretch of attacks.

John Hudson, Dan Lamothe and Kyle Rempfer contributed to this report.

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