Missiles fired from rebel-held lands in Yemen
Two missiles fired from rebel-held territory in Yemen landed near an American destroyer passing by in the Red Sea, the US Navy, the second such launch targeting ships in the crucial international waterway in recent days.
The missile launches on Sunday came as a ballistic missile fired from Yemen apparently targeted a Saudi air base near Mecca, the deepest strike yet into the kingdom by Shia Houthi rebels and their allies.
The 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 more than 140 people and wounded 525 on Saturday.
In a statement, the US Navy said no damage was done to the USS Mason, an Arleigh Burke class of guided missile destroyer.
Lt. Ian McConnaughey, a spokesman for US Navy Forces Central Command, said 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 7pm.
An American defence 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.
Last week, a UAE-leased Swift boat came under rocket fire near the same area and sustained serious damage. The UAE described the vessel as carrying humanitarian aid and having a crew of civilians, while the Houthis called the boat a warship.
US 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 UAE ship with an Iranian antishipping cruise missile, based on purported video of the attack.
Shia power Iran has supported the Houthis, but denied supplying them with weapons.
Any Iranian involvement could stoke tension between the Islamic Republic and the US, which already have had a series of tense naval encounters since the nuclear deal with world powers.
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 US military personnel training the kingdom’s armed forces.
The Saudi military said the missile fired late on Saturday night was intercepted and caused no damage. The US 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 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.
NO DAMAGE: US destroyer USS Mason