Yemenis during a march in solidarity with the people of Gaza on November 10, 2023, in Al Houthi-controlled capital Sana'a. Image Credit: AFP

CAIRO: A spokesman for Yemen’s Iran-aligned Al Houthi military, Yahya Sarea, said on Sunday the group will target all ships owned or operated by Israeli companies or carrying the Israeli flag, according to the group’s Telegram channel.

The spokesman called on all countries to withdraw their citizens working on the crews of any such ships.

A US Navy warship this week shot down a drone that was heading toward the ship as it sailed in the southern Red Sea.

The USS Thomas Hudner, a naval destroyer, was sailing toward the Bab-el-Mandeb strait when the crew saw the drone, which originated in Yemen. The ship shot down the drone over the water. The officials said the crew took action to ensure the safety of US personnel, and there were no casualties or damage to the ship. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing military operations.

According to a initial intelligence assessment, the drone was likely targeting the ship, said one of the officials. The US did not directly blame the Iran-backed Al Houthi rebels for launching the unmanned aircraft. But the early Wednesday incident comes less than a week after Houthis shot down a US drone over the Red Sea. Officials said the MQ-9 Reaper was in international airspace. Al Houthis said it was in Yemeni airspace and was shot down by air defences.

Al Houthis have launched at least six aerial attacks against Israel since October 7 and, according to the group’s leader, Abdul Malik Al Houthi, have vowed to target ships operating in the Red Sea.

Another Navy destroyer, the USS Carney, took similar strikes on drones coming from Yemen on October 19. The ship took out three missiles and several drones. It wasn’t certain if they were aimed at Israel. One of the officials said the US does not believe the missiles were aimed at the ship.

Al Houthi are staunch foes of Israel and regularly hold huge demonstrations in support of Palestinians, during peacetime and wartime.