By Aziz El Yaakoubi and Idrees Ali
RIYADH, Dec 3 (Reuters) – Three commercial vessels came under attack in international waters in the southern Red Sea, the U.S. military said Sunday, as Yemen’s Houthi group claimed drone and missile attacks on two Israeli vessels in the area.
The Carney, an American destroyer, responded to distress calls and provided assistance following missile and drone launches from Houthi-controlled territory, according to U.S. Central Command.
Yemen’s Houthi movement said its navy had attacked two Israeli ships, Unity Explorer and Number 9, with an armed drone and a naval missile. A spokesperson for the group’s military said the two ships were targeted after they rejected warnings, without elaborating.
In a broadcast statement, the spokesperson said the attacks were in response to the demands of the Yemeni people and calls from Islamic nations to stand with the Palestinian people.
The U.S. military said the Carney shot down three drones as it helped the commercial vessels. It was not clear if the warship was a target.
It said the attacks were a threat to international commerce.
“We also have every reason to believe that these attacks, while launched by the Houthis in Yemen, are fully enabled by Iran,” the statement said.
“The United States will consider all appropriate responses in full coordination with its international allies and partners,” it added.
An Israeli military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said the two ships had no connection to Israel.
“One ship was significantly damaged and it is in distress and apparently is in danger of sinking and another ship was lightly damaged,” Hagari told reporters in Tel Aviv.
The reported incident follows a series of attacks in Middle Eastern waters since war broke out between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas on Oct. 7.
An Israeli-linked cargo ship was seized in November by the Houthis, allies of Iran. The group, which controls most of Yemen’s Red Sea coast, had previously fired ballistic missiles and armed drones at Israel and vowed to target more Israeli vessels.
The Bahamas-flagged bulk carrier Unity Explorer is owned by Unity Explorer Ltd and managed by London-based Dao Shipping Ltd, LSEG data showed. The ship was scheduled to arrive in Singapore on Dec. 15.
Number 9, which was headed to Suez port, is a Panama-flagged container ship owned by Number 9 Shipping Ltd and managed by Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK-based Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), the data showed.
BSM said in a statement to Reuters Number 9 is currently sailing and there were no reports of injuries or pollution after the incident. The vessel was hit by a projectile while transiting the Bab al-Mandab Strait, the company said.
Unity Explorer’s owners and managers could not be reached immediately for comments.
According to U.S. Central Command, the Unity Explorer suffered minor damage while the Number 9 also reported damage.
British maritime security company Ambrey and sources said earlier that a bulk carrier and a container ship had been hit by at least two drones while sailing in the Red Sea.
Ambrey said the container ship had reportedly suffered damage from a drone attack about 63 miles (101 km) northwest of the northern Yemeni port of Hodeidah.
Britain’s Maritime Trade Operations agency (UKMTO) said it had received reports of a drone attack in the Red Sea’s Bab al-Mandab Strait.
Last week a U.S. Navy warship responded to a distress call from an Israeli-managed commercial tanker in the Gulf of Aden after it had been seized by armed individuals.