US military destroys Houthi rebel boats after container ship attack in Red Sea

The US military responded to a distress call in the early hours of the morning

The US military says it has destroyed "small boats" belonging to Houthi rebels in the Red Sea after crews had attempted to board a container ship.

Houthi rebels from Yemen attacked the Danish-owned Maersk Hangzhou in four boats, only hours after two anti-ship ballistic missiles, which were fired at the same vessel, were shot down, the military said.

In a statement, US Central Command (CENTCOM) said the attackers fired small arms weapons and reached within 20 metres of the ship.

A contract-embarked security team on the ship returned fire and sent out a distress call, prompting helicopters from the USS Dwight D Eisenhower aircraft carrier and USS Gravely to be dispatched.

When the small boats were issued verbal warnings to stand down they opened fire on the helicopters.

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CENTCOM said the naval helicopters returned fire in "self defence", sinking three of the four boats and killing the crews. The fourth boat fled the area.

"This is the 23rd illegal attack by the Houthis on international shipping since November 19," CENTCOM added.

The Iran-backed Houthi rebels have claimed attacks on ships in the Red Sea that they say are either linked to Israel or heading to Israeli ports.

They say their attacks aim to end Israel's air-and-ground offensive targeting the Gaza Strip, following the attack by proscribed terror group Hamas on October 7.

On Saturday, the top commander of US naval forces in the Middle East said Houthi rebels have shown no signs of ending their "reckless" attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea.

The comments come as more nations join the international maritime mission to protect vessels in the vital waterway.

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