A US Navy warship operating in the Middle East intercepted multiple projectiles near the coast of Yemen on Thursday, two US officials told CNN.
One of the officials said the missiles were fired by Iranian-backed Houthi militants, who are engaged in an ongoing conflict in Yemen. Approximately 2-3 missiles were intercepted, according to the second official.
Later Thursday Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder confirmed that the USS Carney shot down three land attack missiles as well as several drones that were launched by Iran-backed Houthi forces in Yemen.
“This action was a demonstration of the integrated air and missile defense architecture that we built in the Middle East and that we are prepared to utilize whenever necessary to protect our partners and our interest in this important region,” he said at a news briefing. “There were no casualties to US forces and none that we know of to any civilians on the ground.”
Ryder said the Pentagon cannot say for certain at this point what the missiles and drones were targeting, but said they were launched from Yemen and were heading north along the Red Sea, “potentially toward targets in Israel.”
The USS Carney transited through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea on Wednesday. US Fleet Forces command said in a social media post that it would “help ensure maritime security and stability in the Middle East.”
The incident was one of a series in recent days with US bases being targeted by drones in Syria and Iraq amid increasing tensions in the region as the war between Israel and Hamas continues.
The drone attacks targeting the base in Syria resulted in “minor injuries,” Ryder said.
On Wednesday, two drones targeted the al-Tanf garrison in Syria, where US and anti-ISIS coalition forces are based, Ryder said. One drone was engaged and destroyed, and another drone impacted the base resulting in minor injuries to coalition forces, Ryder said.
That same morning, in Iraq, early warning systems indicated a possible threat approaching the al-Asad airbase where US personnel are stationed. No attack occurred, but personnel sheltered in place and an American civilian contractor suffered a cardiac episode and died shortly thereafter, Ryder said.
On Tuesday, US forces defended against three drones near US and coalition forces in Iraq, Ryder said. Two of the drones targeted the al-Asad airbase, which resulted in minor injuries to coalition forces. And in northern Iraq near Bashur airbase, US forces engaged and destroyed a drone, resulting in no injuries or damage, Ryder said.
“While I’m not going to forecast any potential response to these attacks, I will say that we will take all necessary actions to defend US and coalition forces against any threat,” he said. “Any response, should one occur, will come at a time and a manner of our choosing.”
Asked whether all of these attacks are tied to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, and anger in the region over the US’ support for Israel, Ryder said the US is still assessing the attacks.
“Our focus is going to be continuing to ensure we are deterring a potential broader regional conflict,” he said.
To that end, Ryder said, Austin has held a series of calls with Arab and Israeli leaders, including Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed from the United Arab Emirates, Emir Sheikh Tamim from Qatar and Prince Khalid bin Salman from Saudi Arabia. The goal was to reiterate US support for Israel and to underscore the importance of safeguarding civilians.
“He emphasized again that any country or any group thinking of trying to take advantage of the situation in Israel to try to widen the conflict should think twice and not doubt the resolve of the United States,” said Ryder.
Austin also spoke Thursday with his Israeli counterpart, Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant, with whom he has spoken frequently since the war began.