The United States sunk three small Houthi boats in the Red Sea early Sunday morning following another attack on a merchant ship as tensions continue to rise in the region.
U.S. Navy helicopters from the USS Eisenhower and the Gravely responded to a distress call issued by the container ship Maersk Hangzhao — the second distress call the ship issued in less than 24 hours due to “being under attack by four Iranian-backed Houthi small boats,” according to the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). CENTCOM said that the boats, which originated from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, fired at the Maersk Hangzhao and attempted to board the vessel after getting within 20 meters of the container ship.
The U.S. Navy helicopters were responding to the distress call and starting to give out verbal orders when the Houthi-controlled boats fired at them with crew-served weapons and small arms. The helicopters sunk three of the four small boats and killed the crews, CENTCOM said.
“The U.S. Navy helicopters returned fire in self-defense,” CENTCOM said in a statement.
The fourth boat fled the area. CENTCOM said that no U.S. forces were injured and there was no damage to U.S. equipment.
This exchange comes as attacks on shipping vessels claimed by the Houthi rebels have increased since Israel declared war on militant group Hamas on Oct. 7. On Saturday, the U.S. also shot down two anti-ship ballistic missiles that were fired by Houthi rebels toward Maersk Hangzhao on the Red Sea, CENTCOM said Sunday.
The Maersk Hangzhao said they were struck by a missile earlier on Saturday, according to CENTCOM.
“This is the 23rd illegal attack by the Houthis on international shipping since Nov. 19,” CENTCOM said in a statement.
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