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28 Yemen rebel drones shot down by US, allies

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates—The United States and its allies said they shot down 28 drones fired by Yemen’s Huthis at targets in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden last weekend, in one of the Iran-backed rebels’ largest attacks.

Shortly afterward, the rebels said they had fired missiles at an “American” commercial ship and launched drones at US warships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

In November, the Huthis launched a campaign of drone and missile strikes against vessels in the Red Sea, an area vital for world trade, in professed solidarity with Palestinians during Israel’s war against Iran-backed Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

The US Central Command, or CENTCOM, said the “large-scale” Huthi attack occurred before dawn in the Red Sea and adjacent Gulf of Aden.

CENTCOM and coalition forces determined that the drones “presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels, US Navy and coalition ships in the region.”

It added, in a post on social media platform X, that “US Navy vessels and aircraft along with multiple coalition navy ships and aircraft shot down 15” of the drones.

“These actions are taken to protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure.”

CENTCOM said in an update later Saturday that the US and its allies had downed a total of 28 drones in the operation.

Huthi military spokesman Yahya Saree, also on X, said the rebels had carried out two separate attacks.

The first targeted the commercial vessel Propel Fortune in the Gulf of Aden, he said, calling it an “American” ship.

Vessel tracking websites describe the bulk carrier as Singapore-flagged but did not report its current position.

The second attack saw “37 drones” fired at “a number of American” warships, Saree said.

In the Yemeni capital Sanaa, Huthi loyalists took part in a military parade on Saturday, stomping on US, Israeli and British flags.

The United States in December announced a maritime security initiative to protect Red Sea shipping from Huthi attacks, which have forced commercial vessels to divert from the route that normally carries 12 percent of global trade.

France’s defence ministry said on Saturday its fighter jets and one warship had shot down four drones in the Gulf of Aden.

“This defensive action contributed directly to the protection of the cargo ship True Confidence (under Barbadian flag), which was hit on March 6 and is currently being towed away,” it said in a statement.

A ministry spokesperson confirmed the four drones were among the 15 destroyed in total by the coalition.

French forces have been operating in the Red Sea as part of the European Union’s parallel Aspides mission — announced last month — to protect international shipping from the Huthi attacks.

The rebel strikes this week caused their first reported fatalities.

The Philippine government said two Filipino crew members were among those killed in a missile strike on the bulk carrier True Confidence.

On March 2, the first known vessel sinking from the strikes occurred when the Belize-flagged, Lebanese-operated Rubymar went down in the Red Sea, days after a rebel missile strike.

Since January, the United States and Britain have also launched repeated strikes on Huthi targets in Yemen in response to the ship attacks.

The strikes have not thwarted the rebels, who have continued to attack merchant vessels, including American and British ships.

Yemen’s rebels control Sanaa and much of the Red Sea coast, despite a years-long bombing campaign that a Saudi-led coalition began in 2015.

On January 9, US and British forces shot down 18 drones and three missiles fired by the rebels toward ships in the Red Sea, the US military said at the time.

Britain said it was the largest attack to that point by the Huthis.

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