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Houthis, defying U.S. strikes, attempt another attack on U.S.-owned commercial ship

More U.S. strikes on Iranian-backed militias
U.S. launches more retaliatory strikes against militias in Iraq, Yemen 03:40

The targeting of another U.S.-owned commercial ship Wednesday shows the militant group remains intent on continuing its attacks in the face of multiple rounds of U.S. military airstrikes

The Houthis launched anti-ship ballistic missiles at the U.S.-owned, flagged and operated commercial ship Maersk Detroit as it was transiting the Gulf of Aden, according to a statement from the U.S. Central Command. The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Gravely shot down two missiles and a third fell into the water. There were no indications of damage or injuries in the attack. 

The U.S. military has been conducting airstrikes against the Houthis to degrade their capabilities since  Jan.11, after several weeks of attacks on commercial ships by the militant group. 

The  U.S. has launched multiple rounds of two different types of airstrikes — those hitting a wider range of targets, like storage sites and radar capabilities, and also preemptive strikes aiming at Houthi missiles as they're loaded onto launchers to prepare for an attack. This second category — colloquially referred to as "whack-a-mole" strikes — have become an almost daily occurrence. 

"If they stop conducting these attacks, then there'll be no further need to take these kinds of actions. But again, our hope is that we can restore security and stability to the Red Sea, and we'll continue to work toward that end," Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said this week. 

A senior military official told reporters Monday that the strikes were having "good impact, good effect" on degrading the Houthis but acknowledged the militants  still retain some  capabilities. 

Before Wednesday, the most recent attempted attack occurred on Jan. 18, when the Houthis targeted the Marshall Islands-flagged, U.S.-owned commercial ship M/V Chem Ranger. The brief lull likely had more to do with the U.S. effort to hit missiles as the Houthis were preparing to launch them than any Houthi change of heart about conducting these attacks. 

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters Wednesday's attack "underscores that the Houthis still intend to conduct these attacks, which means we're obviously still going to have to do what we have to to protect that shipping."   

The Houthis began launching these attacks in November to protest the war in Gaza, but many of the commercial ships they've targeted have no connection to Israel, U.S. officials say. These attacks, combined with the others that Iran-backed groups are launching at U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria add to the widening tensions in the Middle East since the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas

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