The tensions spilling over from the war in Gaza to merchant shipping in the Red Sea escalated on Saturday when Britain and the United States said their militaries had shot down more than a dozen attack drones.
The Houthis, an armed group that controls much of northern Yemen, have been staging drone and missile assaults on Israeli and American targets since the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks on Israel. They have said they intend to prevent Israeli ships from sailing the Red Sea until Israel stops its war on Hamas, which rules Gaza. Both the Houthis and Hamas, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, are backed by Iran.
The shipping industry was also bracing for potential economic fallout as the Red Sea, a vital sea lane, is increasingly drawn into the regional unrest. The U.S. Central Command said in a statement that an American guided missile destroyer, the U.S.S. Carney, “successfully engaged” 14 drones launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. It said the confrontation resulted in no injuries or damage to ships in the area.
Earlier in the day, Britain’s defense secretary, Grant Shapps, said the British warship HMS Diamond had shot down one suspected attack drone targeting merchant shipping in the Red Sea overnight.
“The recent spate of illegal attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security,” he said in a statement. “The U.K. remains committed to repelling these attacks to protect the free flow of global trade.”
Also on Saturday, the Houthi militia claimed to have launched a number of attack drones toward the Israeli Red Sea port of Eilat. Nir Dinar, an Israeli military spokesman, said he could not confirm that claim.