JERUSALEM (AP) — Yemen's Houthi rebels said they attacked a U.S. Navy mobile base at sea on Monday without providing evidence, something an American defense official immediately denied.
Houthi military spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Saree claimed the group fired a missile at the USS Lewis B. Puller in the Gulf of Aden. The puller, which serves as a floating landing base, had previously been deployed in the Arabian Sea as part of American efforts to curb Houthi attacks on commercial shipping through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
Who are the Houthis?
Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have sharply increased their attacks in the Red Sea.
- The Houthi rebels advanced from their northern stronghold in Yemen in 2014 and captured the capital Sanaa, sparking a bitter war.
- They have sporadically attacked ships in the region over time, but attacks have increased since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.
- Read more about who the rebels are here.
The Houthi attacks will continue “until the aggression is stopped and the siege on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip is lifted,” Saree said in the statement.
A U.S. defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said there had been no reported attack on the puller. However, the Houthis have previously fired missiles that failed to reach their intended target, instead striking land or sea.
The puller served as a mobile base for U.S. Navy SEALs conducting an operation on Jan. 11 that seized Iranian-made ballistic and cruise missile components believed to be destined for Yemen. Two SEALs were missing in the operation and are believed to have died.
Since November, the rebels have repeatedly attacked ships in the Red Sea in connection with the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip against Hamas. But they have often targeted ships with weak or no clear ties to Israel, endangering shipping on a key route for global trade between Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
The Houthis hit a merchant ship with a missile on Friday, starting a fire that burned for hours.