US Shoots Down Houthi Missile


US military says no injuries or damage caused by anti-ship cruise missile fired towards USS Laboon

The United States military has shot down a missile fired at one of its vessels by Iran-backed Houthis, officials have said, in the first known attack on US forces by the rebel group since Washington began its latest air strikes on Yemen.

A US fighter aircraft shot down the anti-ship cruise missile after it was fired from a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen towards the USS Laboon in the Red Sea, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Sunday.

“The missile was shot down in vicinity of the coast of Hodeida by US fighter aircraft,” CENTCOM said. “There were no injuries or damage reported.”

The attack is the first to be acknowledged by the US since Washington and its allies on Friday began launching air and cruise missile strikes on Yemen in response to Houthi attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea.

The Houthis, which have yet to acknowledge the latest incident, have carried out repeated attacks on cargo ships that the group says are linked to Israel, in a show of support for Palestinians under Israeli bombardment in Gaza.

At least 26 vessels have been attacked by the Houthis since they seized the Israeli-linked Galaxy Leader vessel in November.

The attacks have forced some of the world’s largest shipping operators to redirect their vessels around the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa, severely disrupting global trade.

Traffic through the Red Sea, which normally facilitates the movement of $3bn-$9bn worth of cargo each day, has dropped by more than 40 percent since the start of the attacks.

Earlier on Sunday, Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam accused the US of violating national sovereignty by flying aircraft close to Yemeni airspace and coastal areas, although it is not clear if the two incidents were linked.

Meanwhile, Houthis’ spokesperson said that US strikes on Yemen had no significant impact on its capabilities. Houthis will continue to prevent Israel-affiliated vessels from passing through the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, Mohammed Abdulsalam told news agency Reuters following the latest strike on a military base in Sanaa. Another Yemen’s Houthi group Ansarullah’s official told Al Jazeera that there were no injuries in the strike and the group has vowed a “strong and effective” response. “There were no injuries, no material nor human losses,” Nasruldeen Amer said.

The first day of U.S.-led strikes Friday hit 28 locations and struck more than 60 targets with cruise missiles and bombs launched by fighter jets, warships and a submarine. Sites hit included weapon depots, radars and command centers, including in remote mountain areas, the U.S. has said.

The Houthis have yet to acknowledge how severe the damage was from the strikes, which they said killed five of their troops and wounded six others.

U.S. forces followed up with a strike Saturday on a Houthi radar site.

Shipping through the Red Sea has slowed over the attacks. The U.S. Navy on Friday warned American-flagged vessels to steer clear of areas around Yemen in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden for 72 hours after the initial airstrikes.

For their part, the Houthis alleged without providing evidence that the U.S. struck a site near Hodeida on Sunday around the same time of the cruise missile fire. The Americans and the United Kingdom did not acknowledge conducting any strike — suggesting the blast may have been from a misfiring Houthi missile.

Since November, the rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea, saying they were avenging Israel’s offensive in Gaza against Hamas. But they have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, imperiling shipping in a key route for global trade.

Though the Biden administration and its allies have tried to calm tensions in the Middle East for weeks and prevent any wider conflict, the strikes threatened to ignite one.

Saudi Arabia, which supports the Yemeni government-in-exile that the Houthis are fighting, sought to distance itself from the attacks on Houthi sites as it tries to maintain a delicate détente with Iran and a cease-fire it has in Yemen. The Saudi-led, U.S.-backed war in Yemen that began in 2015 has killed more than 150,000 people, including fighters and civilians, and created one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters, killing tens of thousands more.

The American military did not specifically say the fire targeted the Laboon, following a pattern by the U.S. since the Houthi attacks began. However, U.S. sailors have received combat ribbons for their actions in the Red Sea— something handed out only to those who face active hostilities with an enemy force.

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