The Pentagon says U.S. warship, commercial ships attacked in Red Sea

Yemen
The guided-missile destroyer USS Carney in Souda Bay, Greece. The American warship and multiple commercial ships came under attack Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023 in the Red Sea, the Pentagon said, potentially marking a major escalation in a series of maritime attacks in the Mideast linked to the Israel-Hamas war.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Bill Dodge | U.S. Navy via AP

An American warship and multiple commercial ships came under attack Sunday in the Red Sea, the Pentagon said. Yemen's Houthi rebels later claimed attacks on two ships they described as being linked to Israel, but did not acknowledge targeting a U.S. Navy vessel.

The attack potentially marked a major escalation in a series of maritime attacks in the Mideast linked to the Israel-Hamas war.

“We’re aware of reports regarding attacks on the USS Carney and commercial vessels in the Red Sea and will provide information as it becomes available,” the Pentagon told The Associated Press.

The Carney is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. It remained unclear what damage, if any, the vessels sustained in the attacks.

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The British military earlier said there had been a suspected drone attack and explosions in the Red Sea, without elaborating.

The Pentagon did not identify where it believed the fire came from. However, Houthi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree claimed the attacks, saying the first vessel was hit by a missile and the second by a drone while in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait that links the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. He described the ships as allegedly ignoring warnings from Houthi officials prior to the attack.

Saree did not mention any U.S. warship being involved in the attack.

“The Yemeni armed forces continue to prevent Israeli ships from navigating the Red Sea (and Gulf of Aden) until the Israeli aggression against our steadfast brothers in the Gaza Strip stops,” Saree said. “The Yemeni armed forces renew their warning to all Israeli ships or those associated with Israelis that they will become a legitimate target if they violate what is stated in this statement.”

Saree identified the first vessel attacked as the Bahamas-flagged bulk carrier Unity Explorer, which is owned by a British firm that includes Dan David Ungar, who lives in Israel, as one of its officers. The second was a Panamanian-flagged container ship called Number 9, which is linked to Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement. Managers for the two vessels could not be immediately reached for comment.

Israeli media identified Ungar as being the son of Israeli shipping billionaire Abraham “Rami” Ungar.

The Houthis have been launching a series of attacks on vessels in the Red Sea, as well as launching drones and missiles targeting Israel amid the war.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said the attack began about 10 a.m. in Sanaa, Yemen, and had gone on for as much as five hours. Another U.S. official who similarly spoke on condition of anonymity for the same reason said the Carney had intercepted at least one drone during the attack.

Global shipping had increasingly been targeted as the Israel-Hamas war threatens to become a wider regional conflict — even as a truce briefly halted fighting and Hamas exchanged hostages for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. However, the collapse of the truce and the resumption of punishing Israeli airstrikes and its ground offensive there had raised the risk of the seaborne attacks resuming.

Earlier in November, the Houthis seized a vehicle transport ship also linked to Israel in the Red Sea off Yemen. The rebels still hold the vessel near the port city of Hodeida. Missiles also landed near another U.S. warship last week after it assisted a vessel linked to Israel that had briefly been seized by gunmen.

However, the Houthis had not directly targeted the Americans for some time, further raising the stakes in the growing maritime conflict. In 2016, the U.S. launched Tomahawk cruise missiles that destroyed three coastal radar sites in Houthi-controlled territory to retaliate for missiles being fired at U.S. Navy ships at the time.