The U.S. military announced on Sunday that it successfully intercepted two anti-ship ballistic missiles launched by Yemen's Houthi rebels in the Red Sea, aimed at a container ship. Subsequently, four boats made an attempt to attack the same vessel, but were met with American fire, resulting in the demise of several armed crew members. Fortunately, there were no casualties or injuries among those aboard the ship.
The MAERSK HANZGHOU, a Singapore-flagged ship, had previously reported being struck by a missile while traveling through the Southern Red Sea on Saturday night. The ship immediately sought assistance, prompting a response from the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).
In response to the attack, logistics behemoth Maersk has decided to suspend the passage of its ships through a crucial Red Sea strait for a period of 48 hours. This comes after their merchant ship came under attack by Yemeni rebels.
Upon receiving the distress call, the USS GRAVELY and USS LABOON were dispatched to provide aid. Fortunately, the Danish-owned vessel remained seaworthy and no injuries were reported.
According to CENTCOM, this incident marks the 23rd illegal attack on international shipping conducted by the Houthi rebels since November 19.
In a separate statement, CENTCOM revealed that the MAERSK HANZGHOU had issued an additional distress call regarding a second attack, this time carried out by four Iranian-backed Houthi small boats. The assailants opened fire with small arms weapons, managing to approach a mere 20 meters (approximately 65 feet) away from the vessel before their attack was thwarted.
The U.S. military's swift response serves as a testament to their commitment to maintaining safety in international waters and protecting merchant ships from hostile parties.
Navy Helicopters Respond to Attack on Ships in the Red Sea
A contract-embarked security team on the ship returned fire, according to the central command. U.S. helicopters from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier and GRAVELY promptly responded to the distress call. While issuing verbal warnings to the attackers, the small boat crews opened fire on the helicopters using small arms.
In self-defense, the U.S. Navy helicopters returned fire, sinking three of the four boats. The crews of those boats were killed, and the fourth boat fled the area. Fortunately, there was no reported damage to U.S. personnel or equipment.
The Iran-backed Houthis have recently claimed responsibility for attacks on ships in the Red Sea, linking them to Israel or Israeli-bound ports. The motive behind these attacks is to put an end to Israel's air-and-ground offensive in Gaza Strip, which was triggered by an attack carried out by the Palestinian militant group Hamas on October 7.
Despite more nations joining the international maritime mission to protect vessels and trade traffic starting to increase, Houthi rebels have not shown any indications of discontinuing their "reckless" attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea. This was stated by the top commander of U.S. naval forces in the Middle East on Saturday.
Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, in an Associated Press interview, revealed that since the Pentagon announced Operation Prosperity Guardian to counter these attacks just over 10 days ago, more than 1,200 merchant ships have safely traveled through the Red Sea region without experiencing any drone or missile strikes.