A US Navy cruiser shot down a Yemeni drone in the Red Sea on Wednesday, according to two US officials, in what seemed to be just the second occasion the US has taken down missiles near its warships since the Israel-Hamas conflict began.
As regional tensions rise throughout the fight, Washington is on high alert for activities by Iran-backed organizations and has been working to ensure that it does not spread across the area.
The drone was shot down by the Thomas Hudner, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The officials did not say whether the drone was armed or how close it came to the ship before being shot down. The action was first reported by Reuters.
Last month, another U.S. warship intercepted four cruise missiles and 15 drones launched by the Iran-aligned Houthi movement from Yemen towards Israel.
Yemen’s Houthi leader said on Tuesday his forces would continue its attacks on Israel, and that they could target Israeli ships in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandeb Strait.
Last week, the Houthis shot down a U.S. military MQ-9 drone while it was in international airspace.
The Houthis, who have been at war against a Saudi-led coalition since 2015, have emerged as a major military force in the Arabian Peninsula, with tens of thousands of fighters and a huge arsenal of ballistic missiles and armed drones.
The U.S. has sent a significant amount of naval power to the Middle East in the past month, including two aircraft carriers, their support ships and thousands of U.S. troops.
The United States has so far carried out three sets of air strikes against Iran-linked militia in Syria in response to a series of attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.
U.S. and coalition troops have been attacked at least 55 times in Iraq and Syria since Oct. 17, injuring 59 personnel, though all have returned to duty, the Pentagon has said.
Statements, purportedly from the militant groups responsible, have said the assaults are in response to U.S. support for Israel in the war in Gaza.
Reuters has reported that the U.S. military was taking new measures to protect its Middle East forces during the ramp-up in attacks by suspected Iran-backed groups, and was leaving open the possibility of evacuating military families if needed.
The measures include increasing U.S. military patrols, restricting access to base facilities and boosting intelligence collection, including through drone and other surveillance operations, officials say.