US Navy helicopters strike Houthi rebels in the Red Sea

US Navy helicopters have killed ten Houthi fighters after attempted attacks on US Navy forces and a merchant ship in the Red Sea, US Central Command said in a statement on December 31.

The Yemen-based Houthis were attempting to seize the MV Maersk Hangzhou and approached the container ship in four small boats.

“The small boats, originating from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen, fired crew served and small arms weapons at the Maersk Hangzhou, getting to within 20m of the vessel, and attempted to board the vessel,” the statement says.

Airman Brian Walker participates in helicopter flight operations aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, USS Dwight D Eisenhower (CVN-69), in the Arabian Gulf on November 30, 2023.
Airman Brian Walker participates in helicopter flight operations aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, USS Dwight D Eisenhower (CVN-69), in the Arabian Gulf on November 30, 2023. US Navy/Communication Specialist 3rd Class Janae Chambers

Helicopters from destroyer USS Gravely (DDG-107) and aircraft carrier, USS Dwight D Eisenhower (CVN-69), responded to a distress call from the Singapore-flagged merchant ship and came under fire from the Houthis, CENTCOM said.

The helicopter crews returned fire and sunk three of the four boats killing their crews. The fourth boat broke off and left the area, according to the statement. The incident is the latest in a series of attacks on merchant shipping in the Red Sea that the Iranian-back Houthis have carried out in retaliation for Israel’s war on Gaza following the October 7 attack by Hamas.

The US subsequently announced it is forming an international coalition to tackle attacks on shipping off the coast of Yemen under Operation Prosperity Guardian. Reports have claimed that as part of the operation the UK is to send Typhoon aircraft equipped with Storm Shadow missiles for use in the event of air strikes on Houthi targets to prevent further incidents in the Red Sea.