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US destroyer shoots down anti-ship missiles fired from Yemen’s Houthis

In World
December 31, 2023

WASHINGTON – An American destroyer shot down two anti-ship ballistic missiles fired from Yemen on Dec 30 as it responded to a call for help from a container ship that was hit in a separate strike, the United States military said.

The missiles were launched from territory controlled by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, the US Central Command (Centcom) said in a social media post, describing it as the “23rd illegal attack by the Huthis on international shipping” since Nov 19.

The Houthis have repeatedly targeted vessels in the vital Red Sea shipping lane with strikes they say are in support of Palestinians in Gaza, where Israel is battling militant group Hamas.

Centcom said the USS Gravely and USS Laboon – both destroyers – responded to a request for assistance from the Maersk Hangzhou, a Singapore-flagged, Denmark-owned and operated container ship that reported being struck by a missile while transiting the Red Sea.

While responding, the Gravely shot down the missiles, which were fired “towards the ships”, it said.

Centcom added in an update on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, that the container ship is reportedly seaworthy, and there are no reported injuries.

The attacks by the Yemeni rebels – who have said they are targeting Israel and Israeli-linked vessels – are endangering a transit route that carries up to 12 per cent of global trade, prompting the US to set up a multinational naval task force earlier this month to protect Red Sea shipping.

The latest round of the Israel-Hamas conflict began when the Palestinian militant group carried out a shock cross-border attack from Gaza on Oct 7 that killed about 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

Following the attack, the US rushed military aid to Israel, which has carried out a relentless campaign in Gaza that has killed at least 21,672 people, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s Health Ministry.

Those deaths have sparked widespread anger in the Middle East and provided an impetus for attacks by armed groups across the region that are opposed to Israel.

US forces in Iraq and Syria have also repeatedly come under fire from drone and rocket attacks that Washington says are being carried out by Iran-backed armed groups. AFP

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