U.S. Navy helicopters responded to a distress call from a merchant vessel and sank three attacking Houthi ships in the Red Sea on Sunday, the military said.
Early Sunday morning, the Maersk Hangzhou, a Singapore-flagged container ship, “issued a second distress call in less than 24 hours reporting being under attack by four Iranian-backed Houthi small boats,” U.S. Central Command said on X, formerly Twitter.
The ships, which originated from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, fired upon the merchant vessel, and a contracted security team on the container ship returned fire upon the Houthi ships.
Helicopters from the USS Eisenhower, which has been stationed in the area since October after Hamas attacked Israel, responded to the distress signal and the small boats fired at the U.S. helicopters.
“The U.S. Navy helicopters returned fire in self-defense, sinking three of the four small boats, and killing the crews,” CENTCOM said. The fourth boat fled.
No U.S. personnel or equipment was damaged.
The incident comes after the USS Laboon destroyer and F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets from the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group shot down a 10-hour barrage of anti-ship ballistic missiles and drones launched by the Houthis last week.
The Iran-backed Houthis have been increasing their attacks in the Red Sea since Oct. 7. The militant group had declared support for Hamas after it attacked Israel and killed about 1,200 people and took 240 others hostage.