US intercepts Houthi drone, ballistic missile attacks in Red Sea

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An American warship shot down a drone and an anti-ship ballistic missile fired Thursday by Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, the US military said.

The Houthis have repeatedly targeted vessels in the vital Red Sea shipping lane with strikes they say are in support of Palestinians in Gaza, where Israel is battling militant group Hamas.

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“The USS Mason (DDG 87) shot down one drone and one anti-ship ballistic missile in the Southern Red Sea that were fired by the Houthis,” US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement, referring to a guided-missile destroyer.

“There was no damage to any of the 18 ships in the area or reported injuries,” CENTCOM said, adding that it was the 22nd attempted attack on international shipping by the Houthis since mid-October.

The Houthis have seized or attacked with drones and missiles a dozen ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November 19. They aim to raise the international costs of Israel’s offensive in Gaza, which was triggered by the October 7 onslaught into Israel by the enclave’s ruling Hamas militants.

The US is leading a new naval task force to protect commercial shipping and has accused Iran of supplying weapons, financing, targeting and other assistance to the Houthis. Iran denies the allegation.

In the latest move aimed at throttling the flow of alleged Iranian financing to the Houthis, the US treasury announced on Thursday it is sanctioning an individual and three currency exchange houses it accused of facilitating the flow of financial assistance to the Yemeni group.

The Treasury said the measures targeted a network through which an Iran-based financier, Said al-Jamal, who has been under US sanctions since at least June 2021, provides Iranian funds to the Houthis.

Those hit included Al Aman Kargo Ithalat Ve Nakliyat Limited Sirketi, which the Treasury described as a “waypoint” for funding provided to the Houthis by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Also targeted were Sanaa-based Nabco Money Exchange and Remittance Co, a recipient of funds sent by the Turkish entity, and its top official, Nabil Ali Ahmed al-Hadha, also president of the Currency Exchangers Association, the Treasury said.

Houthi-run Al Rawda Exchange and Money Transfers Co also was targeted for converting into Yemeni rials funds sent through Hadha’s accounts in Turkey, it said.

Israel launched a devastating air and ground operation on Gaza in retaliation to Hamas’ October 7 attack.

Following the attack, the United States rushed military aid to Israel, which has carried out the relentless campaign in Gaza that has killed at least 21,320 people, according to the 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.

US 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.

On Monday, a drone attack wounded three American personnel in northern Iraq, after which the US military struck three sites it said were used by Iran-backed forces in the country.

With Reuters and AFP

Read more: US targets flow of Iranian funds to Yemen’s Houthis over shipping attacks

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