Houthis Claim Missile Attack Against USS Lewis B. Puller

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What to Know:

The Houthis have released a statement claiming to have attacked the American expeditionary mobile base vessel USS Lewis B. Puller with anti-ship missiles in the Gulf of Aden. Currently, there is no indication or confirmation from CENTCOM that an attack took place.

The Claim:

In a statement released by Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea, the Houthis claimed that “With the help of Allah, Yemeni Naval Forces in the Yemeni Armed forces, have launched a suitable naval missile towards the US Naval “Lewis B Puller” vessel in the gulf of Aden.”

“Among the tasks of this vessel is providing logistic for the American forces that participate in the aggression against our country.”

“The targeting operation comes within military procedures that the Armed Forces is carrying out protecting beloved Yemen and in confirmation of the decision of supporting the oppressed people of Palestine,” the statement added.

As stated above, there is currently no indication that an attack even took place. Likewise, there has been no official comment by the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) about the claims.

Why Target the USS Lewis B. Puller?

The USS Lewis B. Puller has been involved in interdiction operations in the Gulf of Aden targeting dhows smuggling weapons and missile components from Iran to Yemen.

On January 11, Navy Seals from the USS Lewis B. Puller were involved in a nighttime VBSS operation against a dhow off the coast of Somalia, which resulted in the seizure of “Iranian-made ballistic missile and cruise missiles components. Seized items include propulsion, guidance, and warheads for Houthi medium range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) and anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), as well as air defense associated components.”

“Initial analysis indicates these same weapons have been employed by the Houthis to threaten and attack innocent mariners on international merchant ships transiting in the Red Sea,” CENTCOM reported.

It was during this operation that two Navy SEALs, identified as Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Christopher J. Chambers and Navy Special Warfare Operator 2nd Class Nathan Gage Ingram, went overboard. After a 10 day search, both SEALs were declared lost a sea, marking the first American deaths during operations against the Houthis.

Why it Matters:

While Houthi claims unverified, it would not be the first time that they falsely reported an attack against an American vessel involved in military operations.

On January 22, the Houthis claimed to have attacked the American-flagged heavy transport vessel M/V Ocean Jazz, which is part of the Military Sealift Command. The claim was quickly denied by the United States 5th Fleet, who said that “The Iranian-backed Houthi terrorists’ report of an alleged successful attack on M/V Ocean Jazz is patently false. NAVCENT has maintained constant communications with M/V Ocean Jazz throughout its safe transit.”

While attacks against commercial vessels continue in the region, we have yet to see a Houthi response to American-led air and missile strike operations. Since strikes began earlier this month, we have seen increased targeting of American and British-owned commercial vessels that have no relations to Israel, in which the Houthis have continuously said only vessels linked or heading to Israel would be targeted.

The Houthis are part of the greater Axis of Resistance, a term used to described Iran-backed proxy forces in the Middle East, so a response could also be seen indirectly through attacks by Shia militia forces in Iraq and Syria against American forces in the region.