A U.S. Navy ship shot down missiles and drones fired by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen in the Red Sea on Thursday, possibly at Israel, the Pentagon said.
Three “land attack cruise missiles and several drones” were intercepted by a destroyer, Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder told reporters. The attack was “launched by Houthi forces in Yemen,” possibly against targets in Israel, he added.
The ship, the USS Carney, was patrolling the Red Sea as part of a greatly increased U.S. military presence ordered by President Joe Biden to maintain stability following the war between Israel and the militant Hamas group in the Gaza Strip.
Ryder said missiles were fired from Yemen, where Iran-backed Houthi rebels are at war with a government backed by a Saudi-led coalition.
He said there were no U.S. casualties and that the intercepted missiles likely struck in open water rather than over land.
“We cannot say with certainty what these missiles were aimed at, but they were fired from Yemen north along the Red Sea.”
“Our defensive response was the one we would have chosen for any similar threat in the region,” he said.
“We have the ability to defend our broader interests in the region and prevent regional escalation and broader expansion of the conflict that began with Hamas’ attack on Israeli civilians.”
Biden has ordered an increase in air and naval forces – including the deployment of two aircraft carriers – to the Middle East to prevent the war between Israel and Hamas from spilling into the powder keg region.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon also ordered 2,000 troops to be ready for possible deployment.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the deployment would allow the United States to “respond more quickly to the crisis,” while the White House stressed it did not intend to deploy U.S. combat forces on the ground.
US media reported that the troops being prepared for the deployment would carry out support tasks such as medical assistance and handling explosives.
Biden flew to Israel this week in a dramatic show of U.S. support and was scheduled to give a speech at the White House later Thursday calling on Congress to increase military support for Israel and another embattled U.S. ally – Ukraine finance.
Asked by reporters late Wednesday about reports that his administration had told Israel that U.S. forces would fight alongside Israeli troops in response to an attack against Israel by the powerful Lebanese movement Hezbollah, Biden said this was “not true “.
However, he said that “our military is talking to their military about the alternatives” in the event of a Hezbollah attack.
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