JERUSALEM (AP) — The U.S. Central Command announced Saturday that the U.S. military conducted self-defense strikes against two mobile unmanned surface vessels, four anti-ship cruise missiles, and one mobile land attack cruise missile that were prepared to launch against ships in the Red Sea from Yemen.
The military said the missiles and an unmanned vessel in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen presented an imminent threat to U.S. Navy ships and merchant vessels in the region.
Since November, the rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea over Israel’s offensive in Gaza, imperiling a key route for trade between Asia, the Mideast and Europe. However, many of the vessels attacked have tenuous or no clear links to Israel.
The Houthis’ media office said the U.S.-led coalition launched three airstrikes on Salif district in the Red Sea province of Hodeida on Saturday.
In response, the U.S. and Britain launched several airstrikes on Houthi-held areas across Yemen, including the rebel-held capital of Sanaa.
The Houthis held a mass funeral in Sanaa Saturday for 17 of their fighters who they said were killed in strikes by the U.S.-led coalition, according to the Houthi-run SABA news agency.
The report didn’t say when and where the fighters were killed.
In Syria, Israeli airstrikes hit several sites on the outskirts of the capital, Damascus, the Syrian military said Saturday.
The strikes came from the direction of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Syrian state news agency SANA reported, citing an unnamed military official. It added that air defenses shot down some and those that landed resulted in “some material losses.”
Britain-based war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said one of the strikes hit a residential building west of the capital. It reported three unidentified people were killed. Earlier it said casualties could be “figures of non-Syrian nationalities.” The observatory said Saturday's assault was the 10th apparent Israeli strike on Syrian territory since the beginning of the year.
There was no immediate comment from Israel.
Presumed Israeli strikes in Syria in the past have killed high-ranking figures with Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard and allied groups. In December, a strike on a Damascus neighborhood killed a high-ranking Iranian general, Seyed Razi Mousavi, a longtime adviser to the Revolutionary Guard in Syria.
Tensions have also flared elsewhere in the region. A U.S. airstrike in Baghdad Wednesday killed a commander of Kataib Hezbollah, one of the most powerful armed groups in Iraq, as part of Washington's retaliation for the killing of three U.S. troops in Jordan last month.
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Iran-backed militias that has launched numerous attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria, issued a call Friday for fighters to join its ranks to drive “occupying forces” out of the country.
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq has conducted about 170 attacks on bases with U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria over the last four months, saying they were due to Washington’s support of Israel in its war in Gaza and that it aims to expel U.S. forces from the region.
Iraqi and U.S. officials launched formal talks last month to wind down the presence of U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq, but the talks were paused following the strike in Jordan attributed to the Islamic Resistance in Iraq. Officials from both countries announced Thursday that the talks will resume, with the next meeting set for Sunday.