Two missiles fired from rebel-held territory in Yemen landed near an American destroyer in the Red Sea, the U.S. Navy said Monday, the second such launch targeting ships in the crucial international waterway in recent days.
The missile launches Sunday came as a ballistic missile fired from Yemen apparently targeted a Saudi air base near the Muslim holy city of Mecca, the deepest strike yet into the kingdom by Shiite rebels and their allies.
Yemen’s Shiite rebels known as Houthis and their allies offered no reason for the launches, though they came after a Saudi-led airstrike targeting a funeral in Yemen’s capital killed over 140 people and wounded 525 on Saturday.
In a statement, the Navy said no American sailors were injured and no damage was done to the USS Mason, an Arleigh Burke class of guided missile destroyer whose home port is Norfolk, Virginia. Lt. Ian McConnaughey, a spokesman for U.S. Navy Forces Central Command, said that it’s unclear if the USS Mason was specifically targeted, though the missiles were fired in its direction over an hour’s time period, starting at around 7 p.m.
An American defense official said the USS Mason used onboard defensive measures after the first missile was fired, but it wasn’t clear if that caused the missile to splash harmlessly into the sea. The destroyer at the time of the missile fire was north of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which serves as a gateway for oil tankers headed to Europe through the Suez Canal, the official said.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the incident that haven’t been made public.
However, the Houthi-controlled SABA news agency of Yemen quoted an anonymous army official denying its forces fired on the USS Mason, without elaborating.
Last week, an Emirati-leased Swift boat came under rocket fire near the same area and sustained serious damage. The United Arab Emirates described the vessel as carrying humanitarian aid and having a crew of civilians, while the Houthis called the boat a warship.
U.S. Navy officials declined to immediately discuss what kind of rockets were used in the USS Mason incident.
Analysts with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy suggested in a report that the Houthis may have targeted the Emirati ship with an Iranian anti-shipping cruise missile, based on purported video of the attack.
Meanwhile, Saudi state television aired a brief clip of what appeared to be a projectile that was said to have landed in Taif in the ballistic missile attack. The video shows the flash of an explosion, followed by images of emergency vehicles. Taif is home to Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd Air Base, which hosts U.S. military personnel training the kingdom’s armed forces.
The Saudi military said the missile fired late Saturday night was intercepted and caused no damage. The U.S. military’s Central Command, which oversees troops in the Middle East, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Al-Masirah, a satellite news channel run by Yemen’s Shiite rebels known as the Houthis, identified the missile as a local variant of a Soviet-era Scud missile. It said the Volcano-1 missile targeted the air base.