Missiles, drones launched from Yemen and shot down by US warship might have been aimed at Israel, Pentagon says
Stars and Stripes October 19, 2023
WASHINGTON – A U.S. warship shot down multiple rockets and drones in the Middle East on Thursday that were fired from Yemen and possibly targeted Israel, the Pentagon said.
“The crew of the guided missile destroyer USS Carney, operating in the northern Red Sea, earlier today shot down three land-attack cruise missiles and several drones that were launched by Houthi forces in Yemen,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s top spokesman.
The USS Carney, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, is armed with several guns, missiles and torpedoes and is part of the military’s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, a program that provides defense against short- and intermediate-range missiles.
Ryder said ship commanders are trained to take such action when a threat is imminent, but he did say why the Carney engaged the Houthi missiles and drones.
“We cannot say for certain what these missiles and drones were targeting, but they were launched from Yemen heading north along the Red Sea, potentially toward targets in Israel,” he said, adding no Americans or civilians on the ground were hurt. “Our defensive response was one we would have taken for any similar threat in the region.”
The Houthis in Yemen are a rebel group supported by Iran. Since 2014, they have been involved in a civil war with the government in Yemen, which is located on the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula and borders Saudi Arabia to the south. It borders the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
The Carney’s actions on Thursday came amid spiking violence and attacks in the Middle East in the two weeks since Hamas militants launched a surprise assault against Israel on Oct. 7 killing more than 1,000 Israelis.
Ryder said U.S. military officials are investigating the rockets and drones fired from Yemen – as well as drone attacks this week against U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria – as individual incidents rather than as part of the fighting between Israel and Hamas.
“I don’t want to allow my imagination to fill in the gaps,” he said. “It is important to separate these attacks from the current situation [in Israel and Gaza]. … We are, of course, going to take all that seriously, but we are also not going to overreact.”
The drone attacks against the U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria on Wednesday and Thursday caused some minor injuries to some American and coalition troops. The al-Tanf garrison in southeastern Syria was targeted in one of the attacks and the al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq in the other. Both locations have been targeted previously by enemy drones.
However, Ryder did say a U.S. defense contractor at the al-Asad base died Wednesday while scrambling for cover during an alert warning of a possible incoming threat. Neither the contractor nor his company were identified.
The drone strikes against the U.S. bases and the rocket fire from Yemen come as the United States provides aid to Israel in its fight against Hamas, a militant group that the U.S. classifies as a terrorist organization. The Pentagon has said it has moved numerous assets in recent days to the region, mainly to deter other countries or groups from escalating the conflict.
The Pentagon said Thursday that new aid is expected to arrive in Israel on nearly a daily basis. More U.S. aircraft and ships are being dispatched to the region, Ryder said. The USS Mount Whitney, a naval command and control ship, departed from Italy on Wednesday for the Eastern Mediterranean and will join two aircraft carrier strike groups there.
The Pentagon also said other ships are also in the region, including the USS Mesa Verde, USS Carter Hall and USS Bataan. The Mesa Verde is an amphibious transport ship, the Carter Hall is a dock landing ship, and the Bataan is an amphibious assault ship.
“We are going to continue to do what we need to do to deter a conflict and ensure regional stability,” Ryder said.
Earlier this week, military officials said 2,000 U.S. troops would soon receive pre-deployment orders for the Middle East. Ryder said Thursday that some of the units have been selected for that deployment should President Joe Biden decide to send more troops.