The Pentagon has said that it is considering a military retaliation against Houthi militants in Yemen after two missiles were fired Sunday at the destroyer USS Mason from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen. Both missiles fell short of the destroyer and landed in the sea.
Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Tuesday that the U.S. is still assessing who fired missiles at the destroyer when it was in the Red Sea on Sunday.
“Anytime anyone engages a U.S. Navy ship at sea in hostility ... they do so at great peril to themselves,” said Davis.
Asked if that could mean retaliatory strikes against those responsible for firing the missiles, Davis said, “Those things are things that we’re looking at.”
“We want very much to get to the bottom of what happened,” said Davis. “We're going to find out who did this, and we'll take action accordingly.”
Davis would not confirm that targets for possible retaliatory strikes are being developed.
He did not directly say who was responsible for the missile firings but noted that was something "we’re looking at very hard right now.”
"We will get to the bottom of this and we will make sure that anybody who interferes with freedom of navigation or anybody who puts U.S. navy ships at risk does so at their own peril,” said Davis.
The type of missiles fired at the Mason is still being assessed but Davis characterized the missiles as “a shore-launched cruise missile.”
Over a one-hour period, two missiles were fired at the Mason from the Yemeni shoreline in Houthi-controlled territory. Both landed short of the Mason, which was close to the USS Ponce, an afloat forward staging area vessel.
For operational security, Davis would not say how far the incoming missiles traveled towards the Mason in the Red Sea. “The initial thoughts were that this was aimed at them and they are looking at it,” he said.
He added that it is unclear if countermeasures deployed by the destroyer's crew led the first missile to fall into the sea. However, the second missile fell into the sea before countermeasures were launched.
The Houthis are an Iranian-backed militant group that seized control of the government in January 2015. Since March, they have been fighting a Saudi-led coalition that intervened militarily in Yemen to restore power to the previous government.
Davis said it was unclear if the missiles fired at the U.S. destroyer were part of the weapons the Houthis had seized from the previous government or new weapons supplied by Iran.
"It's no secret that Iran has been actively supplying them and giving them the tools of war," said Davis.