US, UK forces shoot down 21 drones and missiles fired by Houthis

No injuries or damage reported in what the US military said was the 26th attack by the Yemen-based group since November 19.

A Houthi fighter on the deck of the Galaxy Leader. He is walking away from the camera.
A Houthi fighter on the Galaxy Leader cargo ship [Handout/Houthi Military Media via Reuters]

The United States military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) has said it shot down 18 drones launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels over the southern Red Sea, the armed group’s 26th attack on international shipping lanes in the last seven weeks.

Working with forces from the United Kingdom, CENTCOM said two anti-ship cruise missiles and one anti-ship ballistic missile were also brought down.

The Houthis “launched a complex attack of Iranian designed one-way attack UAVs … anti-ship cruise missiles, and an anti-ship ballistic missile” from areas in Yemen controlled by the Iran-aligned rebels into the southern Red Sea, CENTCOM said in a statement on Wednesday.

The attack was the 26th by the Houthis on shipping lanes in the Red Sea since November 19 when it hijacked the Galaxy Leader, a vehicle carrier that was on its way from Turkey to India.

The group said it began the attacks in protest at Israel’s war on Gaza.

CENTCOM said fighter jets from the Dwight D Eisenhower aircraft carrier and four destroyers, including one from the UK, took part in the operation.

UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said that the HMS DIAMOND, along with US warships, repelled what he called “the largest attack by the Iranian-backed Houthis in the Red Sea to date”.

“Destroying multiple attack drones with her guns and sea viper missiles,” he added on X, calling the attacks “illegal”.

There were no reports of injuries or damage.

The US last month formed an international maritime coalition to deal with the attacks, which have prompted some shipping lines to take the longer sea route around southern Africa and avoid the Red Sea altogether.

The Houthis have said they will continue their attacks until Israel halts the conflict in Gaza.

CENTCOM said US forces shot down a drone launched from Yemen over the weekend, while Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, the commander of US naval forces in the Middle East, said the Houthis had launched an explosives-laden sea drone into shipping lanes last week – the first time they had used such a weapon in the current conflict.

The Houthis say they are targeting Israeli-linked vessels but Cooper said dozens of countries have connections to ships that have been attacked.

At the time of its hijack, the Galaxy Leader – although ultimately owned by a firm linked to an Israeli businessman – was being operated by the Japanese shipping line NYK and most of its 25-strong multinational crew were from the Philippines. Other vessels have had no discernible links to Israel.

The White House said the Houthi attacks were “escalatory” and that the US will consult with its partners about next steps if these attacks continue.

“Despite what the Houthis may say, they are threatening and targeting commercial vessels with ties to countries all over the world, many of which have no connection to Israel whatsoever,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. ” These attacks are unlawful and escalatory,” he said.

The United Nations Security Council was set to vote on Wednesday on a draft resolution put forward by the US that condemns the attacks on merchant shipping in the Red Sea, and demands the immediate end to such actions as well as the release of the Galaxy Leader and its crew.

Japan’s UN envoy Yamazaki Kazuyuki told a security council briefing last week that Japan was “outraged by the armed seizure and continued holding” of the Galaxy Leader and its crew.

“We see no reason to tolerate such an injustice, and strongly demand the release of the Galaxy Leader and its crew immediately and unconditionally,” he said.

The war in Gaza erupted on October 7 when armed group Hamas carried out a shock cross-border attack and killed 1,139 people in Israel.

At least 23,210 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel began its assault hours later.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies