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WASHINGTON: American and British forces shot down 18 drones and three missiles Tuesday that were launched by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels toward international shipping lanes in the Red Sea, the US military said.

The attack came a week after 12 nations led by the United States warned the Houthis of consequences unless they immediately halted firing on commercial vessels – strikes the rebels say are in support of Palestinians in Gaza, where Israel is battling Hamas group.

Oil tankers continue Red Sea movements despite Houthi attacks

“Iranian-backed Houthis launched a complex attack of Iranian designed one-way attack UAVs, anti-ship cruise missiles, and an anti-ship ballistic missile from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen into the Southern Red Sea,” the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement.

The drones and missiles were downed by a combination of F/A-18 warplanes operating from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier and one British and three American destroyers, CENTCOM said, adding that there were no injuries or damage reported.

The United States set up a multinational naval task force last month to protect Red Sea shipping from Houthi attacks, which are endangering a transit route that carries up to 12 percent of global trade.

The Houthis say they are targeting Israeli-linked vessels, but Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, the commander of US naval forces in the Middle East, said last week that dozens of countries have connections to ships that have been attacked.

The latest round of the Israel-Hamas conflict began when the Palestinian group carried out a shock cross-border attack from Gaza on October 7 that killed about 1,140 people, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

Following the attack, the United States rushed military aid to Israel, which has carried out a relentless campaign in Gaza that has killed at least 23,210 people, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

Houthi drone boat detonates in Red Sea, no casualties: US Navy

Those deaths have sparked widespread anger in the Middle East and provided an impetus for attacks by armed groups across the region that are opposed to Israel.

US forces in Iraq and Syria have also repeatedly come under fire from drone and rocket attacks that Washington says are being carried out by Iran-backed armed groups.

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