Updated Dec 27, 2023 - World

U.S. forces destroy swarm of drones and missiles launched by Houthis

The USS Laboon passing through the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey in June 2021.

The USS Laboon passing through the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey in June 2021. Photo: Muhammed Gencebay Gur/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

U.S. forces in the Middle East destroyed a swarm of drones and missiles fired by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels during an hours-long attack in the Red Sea on Tuesday, U.S. Central Command said.

Why it matters: A surge of Houthi attacks in recent weeks has disrupted international shipping, and prompted the U.S. to step up its military presence in the region.

  • The confrontation came just little over a week after the U.S. expanded a multinational maritime security force to protect ships in the Red Sea from attacks launched by the Houthis.
  • The Houthis say they are conducting the attacks in solidarity with the Palestinians. Prior to Tuesday's attempted missile and drone strikes, the group had vowed to continue its attacks despite the expanded U.S.-led security force.
  • Shipping giants including Maersk had rerouted ships away from critical shipping channels in the Red Sea due to the Houthi attacks. Maersk announced Sunday that it would be resuming those shipments.

The big picture: Iran-aligned groups across the Middle East have stepped up their attacks on Israel and on U.S. forces in the region during the Israel-Hamas war.

  • Tuesday's Houthi attack came a day after other Iranian-backed groups launched a drone attack against Erbil air base in Iraq, injuring three American service members.
  • In response to that attack and others, the U.S. destroyed three facilities used by Iranian proxies through a round of airstrikes on Tuesday, according to CENTCOM.

What they're saying: President Biden said in a letter to Congress on Wednesday that the strikes were intended to disrupt ongoing attacks as well as to "deter Iran and Iran-backed militia groups from conducting or supporting further attacks on United States personnel and facilities."

  • He warned in the letter that the U.S. "stands ready to take further action, as necessary and appropriate, to address further threats or attacks."

Driving the news: U.S. Central Command said U.S. fighter jets and a warship shot down a dozen suicide drones, three anti-ship ballistic missiles and two cruise missiles over a 10-hour period on Tuesday.

  • They were downed by the USS Laboon and F/A-18 Super Hornets from the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group.
  • CENTCOM added that there was no damage to ships in the area or reported injuries.

Go deeper: Mapped: Houthi shipping vessel attacks around the Red Sea

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a letter from President Biden.

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