A US Navy ship in the Red Sea on Thursday shot down missiles and drones that had been fired by Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen, possibly at Israel, the Pentagon said.
Three “land-attack cruise missiles and several drones” were intercepted by a destroyer, Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder told reporters. The attack was “launched by Huthi forces in Yemen” potentially toward targets in Israel, he added.
The ship, USS Carney, was patrolling in the Red Sea as part of a heavily reinforced US military presence ordered by President Joe Biden to maintain stability in the wake of war between Israel and the Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip.
Ryder said that missiles were fired from Yemen where the Iranian-backed Huthi rebels are at war with a government backed by a Saudi-led coalition.
He said there were no US casualties and that the intercepted missiles likely fell in open water, not over land.
“We cannot say for certain what these missiles were targeting, but they were launched from Yemen, heading north along the Red Sea.”
“Our defensive response was one we would have taken for any similar threat in the region,” he said.
“We have the capability to defend our broader interests in the region and to deter regional escalation and broader expansion of the conflict that began with Hamas’ attack on Israeli civilians.”
Biden has ordered increased air and naval assets — including dispatching two aircraft carriers — to the Middle East to guard against the Israel-Hamas war spilling over in the tinderbox region.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon also ordered 2,000 personnel on standby for potential deployment.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the deployment would allow the United States “to respond more quickly” to the crisis, while the White House stressed it did not intend to put US combat forces on the ground.
US media reported the troops being readied for deployment would cover support roles, such as medical assistance and handling explosives.
Biden flew to Israel in a dramatic show of US support this week and was due to speak from the White House later Thursday in a speech urging Congress to fund military backing for Israel and another embattled US ally — Ukraine.
Asked by journalists late Wednesday about reports that his administration had told Israel that US forces would fight alongside Israeli troops in response to any attack by the powerful Lebanese movement Hezbollah against Israel, Biden said this was “not true.”
However, he said that “our military is talking with their military about what the alternatives are” in the event of a Hezbollah attack.
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