Pentagon officials confirmed that a US destroyer shot down two ballistic missiles that were fired from the Houthi-controlled region of Yemen after it and another Navy warship responded to a distress call from a commercial vessel in the Red Sea, CBS News reported.
At around 8:30 p.m. local time on December 30, the Maersk container ship Hangzhou reported that it had been struck by a missile while in the Southern Red Sea, according to a statement from US Central Command (CENTCOM).
While no one aboard was injured in the strike, as the Navy was responding to the distress call, the USS Gravely shot down two anti-ship missiles that had been fired from Yemen, according to CENTCOM. It appeared that the missiles were aimed at both the USS Gravely and the USS Laboon, which also responded to the distress call from the Hangzhou.
Several hours later, at about 6:30 a.m. local time, the Hangzhou sent out another distress call reporting that it was under attack by four small boats.
According to a statement from CENTCOM, the boats, from the Houthi-control areas of Yemen, were firing “crew-served and small-arms weapons” at the Hangzhou, moving within 20 meters of the vessel in an attempt to board.
The Navy warships USS Eisenhower and USS Gravely responded to the distress call, deploying two helicopters to the Hangzhou’s location. As the crews aboard the helicopters were issuing verbal commands to the four boats, the Houthis aboard the boats opened fire on the helicopters which returned fire, sinking three of the boats and killing the rebels aboard.
The fourth Houthi boat fled the area.
According to CENTCOM, the incidents marked the 23rd and 24th attacks by Houthi rebels on commercial and merchant vessels in the Red Sea since November 19.
The Houthis have been targeting vessels that traverse the narrow waterway separating Yemen from East Africa that leads north to the Red Sea, then through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea. An estimated 10 percent of global trade passes through this artery.