A MQ-9 Reaper drone takes off from Creech Air Force Base, Nev, on Oct. 19, 2023.

A MQ-9 Reaper drone takes off from Creech Air Force Base, Nev, on Oct. 19, 2023. (Victoria Nuzzi/USAF )

WASHINGTON — A rebel group in Yemen shot down a U.S. drone on Wednesday, roughly three weeks after a U.S. warship intercepted missiles fired toward Israel by the same rebels, Pentagon officials said.

The U.S. drone was a MQ-9 Reaper taken down by the Houthis, an Iranian-backed militant group that has been fighting a civil war against the Yemeni government since the 1990s, according to a senior U.S. military official.

Attacks against U.S. forces in the Middle East have risen significantly since Hamas militants in Gaza attacked Israel a month ago. Israel has retaliated with airstrikes and an invasion of Gaza. The Pentagon said earlier this week that there have been at least 40 separate attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria in the past three weeks. None have caused any serious injuries or heavy damage to the bases, officials said.

The drone attack came on the same day that President Joe Biden ordered a U.S. airstrike by two F-15s fighter jets on a weapons storage facility in eastern Syria used by Iran’s military and rebel groups. The U.S. carried out a similar strike in the same region of Syria on Oct. 26.

It wasn’t immediately clear Wednesday what the drone was doing or whether it was armed. MQ-9 Reapers can carry a variety of armaments, including missiles and laser-guided bombs.

The military official said the Reaper was shot down in the waters off the Yemeni coast but didn’t say whether it was destroyed. Yemen is bordered by the Gulf of Aden to the south and the Red Sea to the west.

The attack came three weeks after the USS Carney shot down several Houthi rockets that were fired toward Israel on Oct. 19. The Pentagon said those missiles had a range of about 1,200 miles and could have reached Israel.

“We know that the Houthis have the ability, by virtue of the missiles, that they’re employing to range targets in Israel,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s top spokesman, said recently.

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Doug G. Ware covers the Department of Defense at the Pentagon. He has many years of experience in journalism, digital media and broadcasting and holds a degree from the University of Utah. He is based in Washington, D.C.

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