US, British forces shoot down 21 drones and missiles fired from Yemen

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American and British forces shot down 18 drones and three missiles Tuesday that were launched by Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels toward international shipping lanes in the Red Sea, the U.S. military said.

The attack came a week after 12 nations led by the United States warned the Huthis of consequences unless they immediately halted firing on commercial vessels — strikes the rebels say are in support of Palestinians in Gaza, where Israel is battling militant group Hamas.

“Iranian-backed Huthis launched a complex attack of Iranian designed one-way attack UAVs…, anti-ship cruise missiles, and an anti-ship ballistic missile from Huthi-controlled areas of Yemen into the Southern Red Sea,” the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement.

The drones and missiles were downed by a combination of F/A-18 warplanes operating from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier and one British and three American destroyers, CENTCOM said, adding that there were no injuries or damage reported.

The United States set up a multinational naval task force last month to protect Red Sea shipping from Huthi attacks, which are endangering a transit route that carries up to 12 percent of global trade.

CENTCOM said U.S. forces shot down a drone launched from Yemen over the weekend, while Vice Admiral Brad Cooper said the Huthis had launched an explosives-laden sea drone into shipping lanes last week — the first time they had used such a weapon in the current conflict.

 Fears of broader conflict 

The Huthis say they are targeting Israeli-linked vessels, but Cooper, the commander of U.S. naval forces in the Middle East, said dozens of countries have connections to ships that have been attacked.

The rebels — who control much of Yemen — are part of the “axis of resistance” of groups arrayed against Israel.

The latest round of the Israel-Hamas conflict began when the Palestinian militant group carried out a shock cross-border attack from Gaza on Oct. 7 that killed about 1,140 people, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

Following the attack, the United States rushed military aid to Israel, which has carried out a relentless campaign in Gaza that has killed at least 23,210 people, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

Those deaths have sparked widespread anger in the Middle East and provided an impetus for attacks by armed groups across the region that are opposed to Israel.

U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria have also repeatedly come under fire from drone and rocket attacks that Washington says are being carried out by Iran-backed armed groups.

Last week, the United States carried out a strike in Baghdad that killed a pro-Iran commander who it said was involved in attacks on American forces — a move that infuriated the Iraqi government.

The violence in Iraq and Syria and the continued attacks by the Huthis have raised fears of a broader regional conflict directly involving Iran — a worst-case scenario that Washington is desperately seeking to avoid.

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