DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Two missiles fired from rebel-held territory in Yemen landed near an American destroyer passing by in the Red Sea, the U.S. Navy said on Monday, the second-such launch targeting ships in the crucial international waterway in recent days.
The missile launches Sunday came as a ballistic missile fired from Yemen apparently targeted a Saudi air base near the Muslim holy city of Mecca, the deepest strike yet into the kingdom by Shiite rebels and their allies.
Yemen’s Shiite rebels known as Houthis and their allies offered no reason for the launches, though they came after akilled more than 140 people and wounded 525 on Saturday.
In a statement, the Navy said no American sailors were injured and no damage was done to the USS Mason, an Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer whose home port is Norfolk, Virginia. Lt. Ian McConnaughey, a spokesman for U.S. Navy Forces Central Command, said Monday it’s unclear if the USS Mason was specifically targeted, though the missiles were fired in its direction over an hour’s time period, starting at around 7 p.m.
An American defense official said the USS Mason used onboard defensive measures after the first missile was fired, but it wasn’t clear if that caused the missile to splash harmlessly into the sea. The destroyer at the time of the missile fire was north of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which serves as a gateway for oil tankers headed to Europe through the Suez Canal, the official said.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the incident that haven’t been made public.
Last week, an Emirati-leased Swift boat came under rocket fire near the same area and sustained serious damage. The United Arab Emirates described the vessel as carrying humanitarian aid and having a crew of civilians, while the Houthis called the boat a warship.
Meanwhile, Saudi state television aired a brief clip of what appeared to be a projectile that was said to have landed in Taif in the ballistic missile attack. The video shows the flash of an explosion, followed by images of emergency vehicles. Taif is home to Saudi Arabia’s King Fahad Air Base, which hosts U.S. military personnel training the kingdom’s armed forces.
The Saudi military said the missile fired late Saturday night was intercepted and caused no damage. The U.S. military’s Central Command, which oversees troops in the Middle East, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Al-Masirah, a satellite news channel run by Yemen’s Shiite rebels known as the Houthis, identified the missile as a local variant of a Soviet-era Scud missile. It said the Volcano-1 missile targeted the air base.
The Houthis have fired a series of ballistic missiles in Saudi Arabia since a kingdom-led coalition of Arab countries has launched an offensive against them in Yemen in March 2015. Most of those ballistic missiles have hit areas far closer to Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen, like an attack Friday night that targeted the southwestern city of Khamis Mushait.
In the Taif attack, however, the missile struck a target more than 325 miles from the border. Taif also is just outside of Mecca, which is home to the cube-shaped Kaaba that all of the world’s Muslims pray toward.
The Saudi military also said it earlier intercepted another ballistic missile fired Sunday on the Yemeni city of Marib.
The Houthis gave no reason for their targeting of Taif, but it comes after a Saudi-led airstrike Saturday targeting a funeral in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa. On Sunday, thousands marched through the streets of Sanaa to protest the strike, one of the deadliest single attacks in the impoverished Arab country’s relentless civil war.
In a statement released Sunday, the Saudi mission at the United Nations released a message in which the kingdom “reiterated its full respect, commitment and compliance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law; and reaffirmed that it will continue to ensure that all possible measures are taken to protect all civilians and civilian objects in Yemen, as well as necessary corrective and appropriate measures to ensure accountability.”
The U.S., which has backed the Saudi-led coalition bombing the Houthis and their allies in Yemen, has voiced concern over the funeral hall strike and made it clear continued U.S. support was under review.
White House spokesman Ned Price issued a caution, saying the Obama administration was “deeply disturbed by reports of today’s airstrike on a funeral hall in Yemen, which, if confirmed, would continue the troubling series of attacks striking Yemeni civilians. U.S. security cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not a blank check.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the Saudi Foreign Minister and a member of the ruling royal family the day after the strike, and urged Saudi Arabia to adopt a ceasefire, and investigate how the strike hit the funeral killing.
Yemen’s war is largely overshadowed by the conflict against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) elsewhere in the Middle East, though rights groups have mounted increased criticism of the Saudi-led airstrikes in recent months for killing civilians. The U.N. and rights groups estimate the conflict has killed at least 9,000 people and displaced nearly 3 million more.
The U.S. military has also been targeting ISIS and al Qaeda targets inside Yemen for months, separate to the Saudi-led operations against the Houthi rebels and their allies.
The humanitarian situation in Yemen has deteriorated dramatically in the last year reports CBS News’ Pamela Falk, with four out of five Yemenis in need of assistance, according to U.N. agencies. The attack came four months after a U.N. report removed Saudi Arabia from a list of those responsible for the violation of rights of children in Yemen, under pressure from Riyad.