WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS, XINHUA) – A US warship was targeted in a failed missile attack from Yemen, the navy said on Monday (Oct 10), two days after rebels there blamed the Western-backed Saudi coalition of killing more than 140 people in an airstrike on the capital Sana’a.
"USS Mason detected two inbound missiles over a 60-minute period while in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen. Both missiles impacted the water before reaching the ship," Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said.
"There were no injuries to our sailors and no damage to the ship," he said.
“We assess these missiles were launched from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen,” Paula Dunn, a US Naval Forces Central Command spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement, referring to the Yemeni rebels.
A Houthi military official on Monday denied reports that the rebel group targeted the US warship, Houthi-run Saba news agency reported.
“The reports that allege the Yemeni rocketry targeted a warship off the Yemeni coasts were baseless and aimed to cover the heinous Saudi crime of Saturday’s (Oct 8) air attacks on the civilian funeral hall in the capital Sanaa,” Saba quoted the official as saying.
The official called on media outlets not to get dragged into “irresponsible rumours.”
The airstrike on a funeral hall in Sana’a prompted the US to announce an “immediate review” of its support to the Saudi-led coalition’s war with the Shi'ite rebels and their allies. The coalition pledged to launch an investigation into the incident, which injured more than 500 people.
Yemeni media controlled by the Shi'ite Houthi rebels posted photos of the destroyed hall and medics removing dead bodies from the scene and blamed the coalition for the strike. One photo showed several people buried under rubble.
Former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a key backer of the Houthis who commands the support of sections of Yemen’s army, demanded reprisals against targets inside Saudi Arabia.
Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi also called for fighters to return to the front lines. “What’s keeping them at home without an excuse?” he said in a speech. “Are they staying so the war planes can attack them at their homes? Everybody should go to the front.”
Saudi Arabia, the champion of Sunni Islam in the Middle East, assembled a military coalition in March last year to help restore the rule of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and curb what it described as a surging Iranian threat.
The campaign began with air strikes, followed by the deployment of troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
In a call with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his foreign minister said they support a renewable 72-hour ceasefire as soon as possible, provided the Houthis agree to it, the US State Department said in a statement.
The prince, in an interview with Bloomberg in March, said the warring parties in Yemen were close to resolving the conflict and that the Saudi government had “good contacts” with the Houthis. Peace talks that ensued over the summer in Kuwait ended without an agreement.
The 18-month-old conflict has exacerbated Yemen’s humanitarian crisis. About 3,799 civilians were killed between March 2015 and August 23, 2016, according to a recent UN report. More than 3 million people have been displaced, the UN said.
Although Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners were able to retake the southern port of Aden in July last year, they have failed to stabilise much of the country and defeat the Houthis, tenacious mountain fighters battling a superior army with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades.
The militia regularly attacks Saudi border posts and has fired missiles into Saudi Arabia’s southern city of Najran.
Saudi-led coalition forces intercepted on Sunday (Oct 9) a ballistic missile fired toward the city of Taif, which is about 700 kilometres from the Yemeni border and home to King Fahad Air Base, the official Saudi Press Agency said. The attack caused no damages or casualties, the news service said.