December 26, 2023 | Flash Brief

U.S. Forces Shoot Down Dozens of Houthi Missiles and Drones 

December 26, 2023 | Flash Brief

U.S. Forces Shoot Down Dozens of Houthi Missiles and Drones 

Latest Developments

U.S. forces in the southern Red Sea on December 26 shot down 12 suicide drones, three anti-ship ballistic missiles, and two land attack cruise missiles launched by the Iran-backed Houthi terrorist group in Yemen, according to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). The USS Laboon, a guided-missile destroyer, and F/A-18 fighter jets from the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group made the interceptions within a 10-hour period. CENTCOM added that no ships in the area were damaged, and there were no reported injuries. The command did not say whether the drones and missiles were targeting U.S. Navy vessels, commercial ships, or Israel.

Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree claimed in a televised address that the group had targeted a container ship in the Red Sea and the Israeli port city of Eilat. Also on December 26, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) released a video of its forces destroying a drone that approached Israeli territory from the Red Sea.

Expert Analysis

“The regime in Iran will escalate its violence through its Houthi, Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Kataib Hezbollah proxies until it pays a direct price. It is happy to fight to the last dead Yemenite, Palestinian, Lebanese, Syrian, and Iraqi. But it will back down if the United States uses direct force against the regime and its assets.” — Mark Dubowitz, FDD CEO

“This is what happens when deterrence by punishment is forsaken. Expect more, not fewer, attacks towards Israel as well as diminished freedom of navigation in the Red Sea. Anti-ship ballistic missiles, suicide drones, and land attack cruise missiles in the hands of the Houthis are brought to you by the Islamic Republic of Iran, full stop.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

Previous Houthi Attacks on Ships in the Red Sea

On December 23, the USS Laboon shot down four drones and two anti-ship ballistic missiles launched from Houthi-controlled territory as the ship patrolled international waters in the southern Red Sea as part of Operation Prosperity Guardian. Later that day, Houthi drones attacked two commercial vessels traveling through the area, with one nearly missing and the other one hitting an Indian-flagged ship. No injuries were reported in either incident. The Houthis also employed anti-ship ballistic missiles to strike two commercial vessels on December 18, with one missile reportedly hitting a ship but causing no damage or injuries, while the other missed and exploded in the water.

Houthi Threats Against Shipping Increase

The Houthis have continually harassed commercial vessels traveling through the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait for more than a month, leading some shipping companies to suspend or reroute ships that would usually travel through the region. In November, the Houthis seized the Bahamas-flagged cargo ship Galaxy Leader and continue to hold the ship and 25 members of its crew hostage. On December 19, the group issued a threat that it would continue to attack international shipping despite efforts by the United States and its allies to confront it. Despite repeated Houthi attacks, the United States has not responded with military force in Yemen, nor has the Biden administration moved to re-list the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization. Instead, the United States formed Operation Prosperity Guardian, a U.S.-led international mission to safeguard commercial vessels in the area.

Houthi Anti-Israel Attacks Harm Egypt and Jordan,” FDD Flash Brief

Houthis Continue Threats Despite New U.S.-Led Multilateral Red Sea Operation,” FDD Flash Brief

Deterring the Houthis Won’t Be Easy for the Red Sea Maritime Task Force,” by Seth J. Frantzman

Expand existing task force to protect Red Sea from Houthi attacks,” by Bradley Bowman and Ryan Brobst


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War Military and Political Power U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy