In a recent escalation of maritime attacks in the Middle East, three commercial ships in the Red Sea were struck by ballistic missiles fired from Houthi-controlled Yemen. The United States military reported that a US warship shot down three drones in self-defense during the attack. The responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran.
The US Central Command issued a statement, stating that these attacks pose a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security, jeopardizing the lives of international crews from multiple countries. The three commercial ships involved are connected to 14 different countries.
The USS Carney, a Navy destroyer, detected a ballistic missile fired from Yemen at the Bahamas-flagged bulk carrier Unity Explorer. The missile hit near the ship, and shortly afterward, the Carney shot down a drone that was launched from Yemen. The Unity Explorer was then hit by another missile, and while responding to the distress call, the Carney shot down another incoming drone. Two other commercial ships, the Number 9 and Sophie II, were also struck by missiles. The Number 9 reported minor damage, while the Sophie II reported no significant damage.
The US Central Command believes that these attacks, although launched by the Houthis in Yemen, are fully enabled by Iran. The US military has said that it will consider all appropriate responses. The Carney, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, has previously shot down rockets fired by the Houthis toward Israel in the ongoing war. The Houthis have launched a series of attacks on vessels in the Red Sea, as well as launching drones and missiles targeting Israel.
Global shipping has increasingly become a target as the Israel-Hamas war threatens to become a wider regional conflict. The collapse of a truce and the resumption of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza and a ground offensive has raised the risk of seaborne attacks resuming. In November, the Houthis seized a vehicle transport ship linked to Israel in the Red Sea, and missiles also landed near a US warship last week after it assisted a vessel linked to Israel that had been seized by gunmen.
The recent attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea represent a concerning development in the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. The involvement of the US military and the belief that these attacks are enabled by Iran raises tensions in the region. The international community will be closely monitoring the situation and considering appropriate responses to ensure the safety of maritime commerce and security.