American forces shot down eight drones near Yemen and destroyed four more on the ground, the U.S. military said on Saturday, announcing a series of incidents that took place the previous day.
The strikes and shootdowns in and around Yemen came as American forces launched a wave of air raids on Iran-linked targets in Iraq and Syria in retaliation for an attack that killed three U.S. troops last weekend.
A U.S. Navy destroyer shot down one drone Friday morning while F/A-18 warplanes and another ship downed seven later in the day, and American forces destroyed four more before they could be launched, the Central Command (CENTCOM) said on social media.
CENTCOM said the four drones destroyed on the ground belonged to Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels, but did not identify a country or group linked to those that were shot out of the air.
It said no injuries or damage were reported from the drones downed over open water.
“These actions will protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure for U.S. Navy vessels and merchant vessels,” CENTCOM said.
The Houthis began targeting Red Sea shipping in November, saying they were hitting Israel-linked vessels in support of Palestinians in Gaza, which has been ravaged by the Israel-Hamas war.
U.S. and U.K. forces have responded with strikes against the Houthis, who have since declared American and British interests to be legitimate targets as well.
In addition to strikes against the Houthis, the United States set up a multinational naval task force aimed at protecting shipping on the transit route, which carries up to 12 percent of global trade.
Anger over Israel’s devastating campaign in Gaza — which began after an unprecedented Hamas attack on October 7 — has grown across West Asia, stoking violence involving Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
On January 28, a drone slammed into a base in Jordan, killing three U.S. soldiers and wounding more than 40 — an attack Washington blamed on Iran-backed forces.
The United States responded on Friday with strikes against dozens of targets at seven Tehran-linked facilities in Iraq and Syria, but did not hit Iranian territory.