Ships Attacked in Red Sea; U.S. Returns Fire

December 4, 2023

These attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security.

The U.S. Central Command after ballistic missiles hit three commercial ships in the Red Sea on Sunday; a nearby U.S. warship shot down three drones in “self-defense.”

The Big Picture: These attacks signify a serious escalation of conflict in an important waterway.

Context: Over the last several weeks, Houthi rebels (a group waging a civil war in Yemen and once designated a terrorist organization by the U.S.) have targeted ships in the nearby Red Sea – an important commercial waterway.

The Houthis have taken responsibility for some but not all the attacks on Sunday, as part of a response to the Israel-Hamas war. The United States blames Iran, a U.S.-designated state sponsor of terrorism, for supporting the Houthis and Hamas.

Also significant: the attack lasted several hours and targeted multiple vessels, representing several different countries (not just Israel or the U.S.).

Meanwhile …

In Iraq and Syria, the U.S. and Iranian-backed groups continue to trade fire.

In a recent exchange Sunday, according to reports, America targeted an area in Iraq used for launching attacks at U.S. forces. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a group representing several Iraqi militia groups, vowed retaliation against U.S. forces” for the death of some of its members (Reuters).

Iran has not yet addressed the attacks.

Read More:

3 commercial ships hit by missiles in Houthi attack in Red Sea, US warship downs 3 drones (The Associated Press)

Pentagon: US warship, multiple commercial ships have come under attack in the Red Sea (ABC News)

U.S. Central Command Statement via X (formerly Twitter)

Suspected U.S. strike in Iraq kills five militia members, sources say (Reuters)

by Sarah Pinkerton,