US shoots down 12 Houthi attack drones, 5 missiles; Israeli jet downs Eilat-bound UAV

American warship and jets intercept Iran-backed group’s projectiles over Red Sea during 10 hour period; Israel brings down device off coast of Egypt’s Dahab; no injuries reported

A Houthi drone is seen over the Red Sea, shortly before being downed by an Israeli fighter jet, December 26, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
A Houthi drone is seen over the Red Sea, shortly before being downed by an Israeli fighter jet, December 26, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

The United States said Tuesday that it had shot down 12 attack drones and five missiles launched by the Iran-backed Houthis, as the Israeli military said a fighter jet successfully shot down a “hostile aerial target” — believed to be a drone launched at Israel from Yemen — over the Red Sea.

In a statement, US CENTCOM said the USS Laboon, a guided-missile destroyer, and F-18 fighter jets from the Eisenhower carrier strike group were involved in the effort to down 12 one-way attack drones, three anti-ship ballistic missiles, and two land attack cruise missiles in the southern Red Sea that were fired by the Houthis over a 10-hour period.

There was no damage to ships in the area or injuries reported, the US Central Command said.

The Laboon is in the southern Red Sea as part of a US-led coalition meant to protect shipping lanes from attack by the Houthis in the key Bab el-Mandeb strait.

The US announcement came shortly after the Israel Defense Forces issued a short statement on the downing of a “hostile aerial target,” which the military said was heading toward Israel, adding that the IAF’s air traffic control monitored the device throughout the incident.

The Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen claimed to have fired several drones at Israel’s southernmost city of Eilat, in solidarity with the Gaza Strip, where Israel is battling Hamas terrorists.

In this April 29, 2015 US Navy handout photo, the guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon (DDG 58) arrives in Souda Bay, Greece on April 29, 2015 for a scheduled port visit. (US Navy/AFP, File)

In an evening press conference, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said the Houthis’ attacks on Israel are “acts of terror.”

“This is an act that is carried out under Iranian directives,” he added.

The IDF released footage showing the interception, which reportedly occurred off the coast of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Witnesses cited by Egyptian media said they saw something fall into the Gulf of Aqaba.

Al Qahera News television, which has links to state intelligence, reported that blasts were heard about two kilometers (1.2 miles) from the Egyptian seaside town of Dahab, which lies around 125 kilometers (75 miles) south of Eilat.

“We heard a loud explosion coming from the direction of the sea, and then we saw a strange object falling into the water,” an eyewitness told AFP.

No casualties or damage were reported.

Footage posted by the Saudi-owned news network Al-Arabiya appeared to show the aerial interception over the Red Sea.

The Houthis also claimed a missile strike on a vessel in the Red Sea on Tuesday.

In a statement, the Iran-backed group said it had “carried out a targeting operation against a commercial ship” they identify as MSC UNITED, and launched several “drones against military targets” in southern Israel.

Yemen’s Houthis have launched a flurry of drone and missile attacks at Israel since the start of its war with Hamas.

Most have failed to reach their targets and many have been intercepted.

The war began on October 7, when some 3,000 Hamas terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing over 240 hostages of all ages under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities. The vast majority of those killed as gunmen seized border communities amid horrific acts of brutality were civilians — including babies, children and the elderly.

The Houthis say the strikes are in solidarity with the people of Gaza, where the Hamas-run health ministry says more than 20,900 people have been killed in the conflict. However, these figures cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both Hamas terrorists and civilians, and people killed as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires.

In late October, six people were wounded in Egypt when two drones came down in Taba, which borders Israel.

The Egyptian air force earlier this month shot down a drone that had been detected over Egypt’s territorial waters, also near Dahab, though a security source said the origin of the drone was “unknown.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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