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US, UK navies down 15 drones over Red Sea

The Houthis fired a barrage at Eilat • The U.S. is considering striking the Iranian proxy in Yemen • Shipping firms leave Red Sea, Suez Canal.

The USS Carney destroyer in Odessa Port during the Sea Breeze international exercise, July 5, 2019. Photo by Volodymyr Vorobiov/Shutterstock.
The USS Carney destroyer in Odessa Port during the Sea Breeze international exercise, July 5, 2019. Photo by Volodymyr Vorobiov/Shutterstock.

American and British naval forces shot down 15 suspected Houthi drones over the Red Sea, the countries said on Saturday.

The Iran-backed Yemeni terrorists said that they fired a barrage of drones at the southern Israeli port city of Eilat on Saturday, and the U.S. reported that one of its vessels shot down 14 drones over the Red Sea on Saturday morning.

“In the early morning hours of December 16 (Sanna time) the US Arliegh [Arleigh] Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS CARNEY (DDG 64), operating in the Red Sea, successfully engaged 14 unmanned aerial systems launched as a drone wave from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. The UAS were assessed to be one-way attack drones and were shot down with no damage to ships in the area or reported injuries. Regional Red Sea partners were alerted to the threat,” U.S. Central Command tweeted.

U.K. Defense Minister Grant Shapps said that overnight Friday, a British air-defense destroyer, the HMS Diamond, brought down a suspected attack drone in the Red Sea, marking the first time that the Royal Navy has shot down an aerial target since the 1991 First Gulf War.

“The recent spate of illegal attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security in the Red Sea. The U.K. remains to repelling these attacks to protect the free flow of global trade,” Shapps said in a statement.

Egyptian state media also reported on Saturday that Egypt’s air defenses shot down a suspected drone near the Red Sea resort town of Dahab.

The Houthis have repeatedly attempted to attack Israeli territory and disrupt global shipping channels during the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, with the situation escalating in recent days.

This has prompted the United States to consider its options in striking back at the Iranian terror proxy. Two U.S. officials recently told Politico that the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group has been positioned in the Gulf of Aden to support a potential American military response.

U.S. military commanders were “provided options” to attack the Houthis in Yemen.

Eisenhower’s move into the Gulf of Aden comes as the Associated Press reported on Saturday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered the USS Gerald R. Ford carrier’s deployment extended for a third time in the eastern Mediterranean waters. U.S. officials also confirmed that the USS Normandy guided-missile cruiser’s stay has also been extended several more weeks.

The U.S. military increased its posture in the region after the Oct. 7 massacre by Hamas and Israel’s ensuing war in Gaza against the terrorist group. It is meant to act as a deterrent to a wider regional conflict involving Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and other Iranian terrorist proxies.

According to the AP, as of Friday there were 19 U.S. warships in the region—seven in the Eastern Mediterranean and 12 in the Red Sea, Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf.

The Houthis have been increasing their attacks on commercial ships attempting to pass through the Bab el-Mandeb strait that connects the Red Sea (and the Suez Canal) to the Gulf of Aden (and the Indian Ocean). They have launched more than 10 attacks on ships in the area since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war.

On Friday, Copenhagen-based Maersk, Swiss-based MSC and the French shipping group CMA CGM announced a halt to shipping operations in the Red Sea area.

Maersk said the attacks in the southern Red Sea “are alarming and pose a significant threat to the safety and security of seafarers.”

The world’s largest container shipping lines have all since said they will avoid the Red Sea and the Suez Canal due to the risk of terrorist attacks.

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