DUBAI: A new explosion was reported off Yemen on Thursday after overnight US strikes targeted 10 attack drones and a ground control station belonging to the Iran-backed Al Houthi militants.
The explosion, reported by the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations agency, happened near a vessel west of the port city of Hodeida.
No damage to the ship or injuries to the crew was reported.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which followed a flurry of missile strikes by the Houthis who have harassed Red Sea shipping for months, triggering reprisal attacks by the United States and Britain.
Early Thursday in Yemen, US forces targeted a “Houthi UAV ground control station and 10 Houthi one-way UAVs” that “presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and the US Navy ships in the region”, a CENTCOM statement said, using an abbreviation for unmanned aerial vehicles or drones.
CENTCOM earlier announced that the USS Carney had shot down an anti-ship ballistic missile fired by the Houthis towards the Gulf of Aden, and that three Iranian drones were downed less than an hour later.
It did not specify if the drones shot down by the destroyer were designed for attack or surveillance.
Maritime security firm Ambrey said a commercial vessel was reportedly targeted by a missile southwest of Aden after the Houthis claimed a missile attack on an American ship in the area that they say was heading towards Israel.
Ambrey did not name the ship or mention its ownership, but Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree identified the ship as “KOI”.
US forces also destroyed a Houthi surface-to-air missile on Wednesday that CENTCOM said posed an imminent threat to “US aircraft” - a deviation from past raids that focused on reducing the rebels’ ability to threaten international shipping.
It did not identify the type of aircraft that had been threatened or the location of the strike, saying only that it took place in “Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen”.
While the United States has recently launched strikes on the Houthis and other Iran-supported groups in the region, both Washington and Tehran have sought to avoid a direct confrontation, and the downing of three Iranian drones could heighten tensions.
The Houthis began targeting Red Sea shipping in November, saying they were hitting Israel-linked vessels as a way to support Palestinians in Gaza, which has been ravaged by the Israel-Hamas war.
US and British forces have responded with strikes against the Houthis, who have since declared American and British interests to be legitimate targets as well.
Some of the US strikes have focused on missiles that CENTCOM said posed an imminent threat to ships, indicating robust surveillance of Houthi-controlled territory likely to include military aircraft.
The United States also set up a multinational naval task force to help protect Red Sea shipping from repeated Houthi attacks in the transit route, which carries up to 12 percent of global trade.
In addition to military action, Washington has sought to put diplomatic and financial pressure on the Houthis, redesignating them as a “terrorist” organisation in January after previously having dropped that label soon after President Joe Biden took office.
On Wednesday, the Houthis said they fired missiles at destroyer the USS Gravely - a claim that came after CENTCOM said the warship downed an anti-ship cruise missile launched “from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen toward the Red Sea”.
Anger over Israel’s devastating campaign in Gaza - which began after an unprecedented Hamas attack on October 7 - has grown across the Middle East, stoking violence involving Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.