US warship shoots down drone and anti-ship ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels

US sanctions scores of money exchange services from Yemen and Turkey to prevent financing of Houthi rebels

Namita Singh
Friday 29 December 2023 08:25

Related: US to take ‘appropriate action’ against Iran-backed Houthi militia after ship attacks

The United States shot down a drone and an anti-ship ballistic missile in the Southern Red Sea fired by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, officials said.

There was no damage or reported injuries, it said in a post on X.

It came as the US announced sanctions on a group of money exchange services from Yemen and Turkey alleged to help provide funding to Houthis.

Included in the sanctions are the head of a financial intermediary in Sana’a, Yemen, along with three exchange houses in Yemen and Turkey. The US Treasury alleges that the people and firms helped transfer millions of dollars to the Houthis at the direction of sanctioned Iranian financial facilitator Sa’id al-Jamal.

The sanctions block access to US property and bank accounts and prevent the targeted people and companies from doing business with Americans.

Yesterday’s action is the latest round of financial penalties meant to punish the Houthis.

Earlier this month, the US announced sanctions against 13 people and firms alleged to be providing tens of millions of dollars from the sale and shipment of Iranian commodities to the Houthis in Yemen.

Brian E Nelson, Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said Thursday’s action "underscores our resolve to restrict the illicit flow of funds to the Houthis, who continue to conduct dangerous attacks on international shipping and risk further destabilizing the region."

Mr Nelsons said the US and its allies "will continue to target the key facilitation networks that enable the destabilizing activities of the Houthis and their backers in Iran."

The sanctions freeze any US assets belonging to the targeted entities and generally prohibit Americans from doing business with them.

The Houthis have sporadically targeted ships in the region in the past, but the attacks have increased since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, spiking after the 17 October explosion at a hospital in Gaza killed and injured many. Houthi leaders have insisted Israel is their target.

They aim to raise the international costs of Israel’s offensive in Gaza, which was triggered by the 7 October onslaught into Israel by the enclave’s ruling Hamas militants.

The US, British and French warships have shot down drones and missiles launched by the Houthis, who control huge swaths of Yemen captured during years of civil war. The Iran-aligned movement says it will continue the attacks in response to the Israeli assault on Gaza.

The US military’s Central Command reported another attempt to attack commercial vessels on Thursday. It said the USS Mason, a Navy destroyer, shot down one drone and one ballistic missile that were fired by the Houthis around 6pm local time.

"There was no damage to any of the 18 ships in the area or reported injuries," CentCom said, adding that it was the 22nd attempted attack by Houthis on international shipping since 19 October.

The US is leading a new naval task force to protect commercial shipping and has accused Iran of supplying weapons, financing, targeting and other assistance to the Houthis. Iran denies the allegation.

In December, the White House also announced that it was encouraging its allies to join the Combined Maritime Forces, a 39-member partnership that exists to counter malign action by non-state actors in international waters, as it looks to push back against the Houthis.

The attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea by Yemen’s Houthi rebels have scared off some of the world’s top shipping companies and oil giants, effectively rerouting global trade away from a crucial artery for consumer goods and energy supplies that is expected to trigger delays and rising prices.

Additional reporting by agencies

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