US downs Houthi boats, kills 10 militants following Red Sea attack

Yemen’s Houthi group on Sunday (December 31, 2023) said 10 of its fighters were killed by US naval forces in the Red Sea while they were trying to hijack a commercial ship in international waters.

Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said in a statement broadcast live by the group’s al-Masirah TV that the US forces attacked three boats belonging to the Houthi rebels, Xinhua reported.

He said the rebels were “performing their humanitarian and moral duty” to prevent Israel-related ships from passing through the Red Sea, “in solidarity and support for the Palestinian people”.

The spokesman said the US “bears the consequences of this crime,” and that the “military movements in the Red Sea to protect Israeli ships will not prevent Yemen (Houthi militia) from performing its humanitarian duty in support of Palestine and Gaza”.

The Houthi official also stated that the rebel group targeted the cargo ship “with appropriate naval missiles”, without saying whether the missiles hit the target.

Earlier in the day, the US Central Command said its naval forces responded to a distress call from a merchant boat in the Red Sea reporting being under a Houthi attack, sinking three Houthi boats and killing all their crews.

The Singapore-flagged “container ship MAERSK HANGZHOU issued a second distress call in less than 24 hours reporting being under attack by four Iranian-backed Houthi small boats … originating from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen”, the US Central Command wrote on X.

The Houthi militants fired “small arms weapons at the MAERSK HANGZHOU, getting to within 20 meters of the vessel, and attempted to board the vessel”, it said.

“U.S. helicopters from the USS EISENHOWER (CVN 69) and GRAVELY (DDG 107) responded to the distress call and in the process of issuing verbal calls to the small boats, the small boats fired upon the U.S. helicopters. The U.S. Navy helicopters returned fire in self-defense, sinking three of the four small boats and killing the crews. The fourth boat fled the area,” it added.

“There was no damage to U.S. personnel or equipment,” the US Central Command noted.

Hours earlier, the US Central Command said the container ship reported that it was struck by a missile while transiting.