Updated Jan 9, 2024 - World

U.S. forces report shooting down barrage of Houthi missiles, drones in Red Sea

A screen grab captured from a video shows that cargo ship 'Galaxy Leader', co-owned by an Israeli company, being hijacked by Iran-backed Houthis from Yemen in the Red Sea on November 20, 2023.

A screenshot captured from a video shows a cargo ship co-owned by an Israeli company being attacked by Iran-backed Houthis from Yemen in the Red Sea in November. Photo: Houthis Media Center/Handout /Anadolu via Getty Images

The American and British navies shot down at least 21 drones and missiles in the Red Sea that the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels launched from Yemen as commercial ships were passing through the region, U.S. Defense officials said Tuesday.

Why it matters: Houthi attacks on commercial vessels in the key shipping route that began in protest of the Israeli offensive in Gaza threatens supply chains and the global economy, and prices of goods around the world are spiking due to the disruptions.

Driving the news: "Iranian-backed Houthis launched a complex attack of Iranian designed one-way attack UAVs (OWA UAVs), anti-ship cruise missiles, and an anti-ship ballistic missile from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen into the Southern Red Sea, towards international shipping lanes where dozens of merchant vessels were transiting," per a U.S. Central Command statement.

  • There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage from the 26th Houthi attack on commercial shipping lanes in the Red Sea since Nov. 19, according to CENTCOM.
  • The U.S. and British navies shot down 18 drones, two anti-ship cruise missiles and one anti-ship ballistic missile after the Houthis' launch about 9:15pm Tuesday local time (1:15pm ET), CENTCOM said.

Between the lines: Since Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel, the U.S. has sent dozens of Navy ships, hundreds of fighter jets and other aircraft and thousands of soldiers to the Middle East "in hopes of deterring Iranian-backed groups from launching attacks that could lead to a regional war," Axios Barak Ravid reports.

  • But Ravid notes tensions have continued to escalate, heightening fears of a wider conflict that could drag the U.S. further into the crisis militarily.

Meanwhile, Axios' Hope King notes about 12% of global trade depends on the Suez Canal, which connects the Red and Mediterranean seas and serves as a shortcut for goods to move between Asia and Europe.

  • However, many firms have rerouted vessels along the longer route around Africa's southern tip due to the Houthi attacks.
  • Shipping giant Maersk announced late last month it was tentatively resuming shipping along the Red Sea route after a U.S.-led security coalition launched in response to the attacks, but it suspended operations in the channel indefinitely last week after Houthis attacked one of its vessels.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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