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A US warship deployed to the Middle East shot down three cruise missiles and several drones fired by Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen that may have been aimed at targets in Israel, the Pentagon has said.
The USS Carney, a US navy destroyer sailing in the northern Red Sea, intercepted the missiles that had been fired by Houthi forces, which have been fighting an insurgent war against Yemen’s Saudi-backed regime for several years.
Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon spokesperson, said the US military “cannot say for sure” where the missiles and drones were headed, but they were launched from Yemen and were heading north over the Red Sea, in the direction of Israel. Ryder said there were no known casualties for the US or to any civilians on the ground.
The intercepts come amid rising tensions in the region between Iran and Iranian-backed militants and US-backed allies in Israel and the Gulf following Hamas’s assault on Israeli civilians. Hamas is supported by Iran, as is Hizbollah, the militant group based in southern Lebanon, which saw a sharp rise in shelling on Thursday.
The US has sent two aircraft carrier groups to the region in an effort to deter Iran, and US officials — including President Joe Biden — have said publicly that the show of force was intended to send a warning to Tehran if it escalated hostilities.
The USS Carney is part of the first strike force, led by the USS Gerald Ford aircraft carrier, to arrive in the region.
Despite American efforts, Ryder said the shoot-down was only the latest sign that the US was seeing a rise in attacks, including an “uptick in terms of the types of drone activity” in Iraq and Syria, amid increased fighting between Israel and Hamas.
Ryder said the Al Tanf base in Syria, manned by US and allied forces, was targeted early on Wednesday by two drones. US forces destroyed one drone and the second drone hit the base, resulting in minor injuries. A day earlier, US forces defended against drone attacks in Iraq.
“We will take all necessary actions to defend US and coalition forces against any threat,” Ryder said. “Any response, should one occur, will come at a time and a manner of our choosing.”
US defence secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with counterparts in the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Israel in an effort to prevent further escalation.