The U.S. military said Saturday it destroyed a Houthi anti-ship missile, a day after the Yemeni militia fired missiles at a U.S. warship and an oil tanker, which was hit and caught on fire.
U.S. Central Command said in a statement that its forces identified a missile in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen that was “aimed into the Red Sea and which was prepared to launch” and deemed it an “imminent threat” to merchant vessels and the U.S. Navy ships in the region.
It subsequently struck and destroyed the missile, it said.
“This action will protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure for U.S. Navy vessels and merchant vessels,” the statement said.
The U.S. military also said Friday that it shot down an anti-ship ballistic missile fired from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen toward an American destroyer, the USS Carney. The same day, Trafigura, the company that operated the oil tanker Marlin Luanda, confirmed that its crew was fighting a fire after the ship was hit by a missile.
By Saturday morning, the fire had been fully extinguished and its crew on board were safe, Trafigura said, adding that the Indian, U.S. and French navies had provided “essential assistance.”
“This intolerable and illegal attack on maritime shipping is the latest on innocent people and global trade,” British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said in a social media post Saturday. He added that Britain remained committed to protecting “freedom of navigation in the Red Sea.”
Trafigura also said that none of its other vessels were passing through the Gulf of Aden on Saturday and that it would “continue to assess carefully the risks involved in any voyage,” joining several shipping companies that have recently reconsidered their shipments through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden because of concerns about Houthi attacks.
The Houthis, an Iran-backed militia that is the de facto government of northern Yemen, have been attacking ships in the Red Sea to protest Israel’s campaign in the Gaza Strip, a spokesperson for the group has said. Gaza health officials say more than 25,000 people have been killed in Israeli airstrikes and other military operations.
The United States and Britain have retaliated numerous times against Houthi missiles since Jan. 11.
The shipping lanes through the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea lead into the Suez Canal, a crucial route through which 12% of world trade passes. Rerouting shipping around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa adds thousands of extra miles, 10 extra days in each direction and much more fuel; continuing to traverse the Red Sea would significantly raise insurance premiums.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.