According to US officials, the destroyer USS Carney shot down nearly 20 targets launched from Yemen aimed at Israel during a 9-hour battle in the Red Sea.

On October 20, CNN quoted an anonymous US official familiar with the matter as saying that the destroyer USS Carney had previously intercepted 4 cruise missiles and 15 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) while on duty in the Red Sea—a day. “The interception process lasted about 9 hours; the targets flew along the Red Sea to the north. The flight path showed that they were clearly targeting Israel,” the US official said.

The official, who spoke anonymously, said that some targets flew at potentially dangerous altitudes for civil aviation. “The destroyer USS Carney shot them down with an SM-2 anti-aircraft missile,” this person said.

The number given by the anonymous official is higher than the statistic of “3 missiles and several UAVs” previously announced by Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder. The US Department of Defense initially stated that it was “uncertain about the missile’s target,” stating that they were “fired by Houthi forces in Yemen and maybe flying towards Israel.”

The US very rarely intercepts Houthi weapons. The most recent time took place in October 2016, when the destroyer USS Mason launched a bait trap to neutralize an attack from Yemen. US forces then launched cruise missiles at several Houthi radar sites in retaliation.

Western military experts say the attack by cruise missiles and UAVs from Yemen against Israel is one of the worrying signs, showing that the Gaza Strip conflict could spread throughout the Middle East and pull America into war.

Location of Yemen and Israel. Graphics: Google Maps

Location of Yemen and Israel. Graphics: Google Maps

Houthi is an Iranian-backed armed group that controls many parts of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa. This force confronts the military alliance led by Saudi Arabia, which has intervened in Yemen since March 2015 to restore the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in exile.

The US has increased its military presence in the Middle East, including sending two aircraft carrier battle groups and a quick reaction force of 2,000 marines to the region to prevent the Hamas-Israel conflict from spreading. On October 22, the Pentagon announced the dispatch of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system and many Patriot air defense battalions to the area.