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A U.S. Navy warship stationed in the Red Sea has intercepted three missiles fired from Yemen, media has reported, suggesting it was possible the missiles were fired in the direction of Israel.
This is the latest in a string of indications that the conflict in the Middle East may be escalating, after reports that Israel was strengthening its military presence along the border with Lebanon – home of the Islamist group Hezbollah.
“We cannot say for certain what these missiles and drones were targeting, but they were launched from Yemen heading north along the Red Sea, potentially toward targets in Israel,” said Brigadier General Pat Ryder at a Pentagon briefing following the news of the missile interception, as quoted by the AP and the Times of Israel.
Separately, the AP reported, citing an unnamed U.S. official, that there had been another strike, this time in Iraq, targeting U.S. and coalition partner forces at a diplomatic center near Baghdad International Airport.
Per the reports, the missiles were launched by the Houthis who currently control Yemen and are affiliated with Iran’s government. With them came several drones, the reports added. ABC noted this was the first time in recent history that a U.S. Navy ship had struck back at missiles and drones that were not targeting it.
The news will no doubt add to fears of an escalation of tensions in the Middle East, with oil prices having moved higher on the news. Early on Friday morning, WTI had climbed above $90 while Brent reached $93.44. Earlier in the week, oil prices had retreated somewhat on the news that the U.S. would lift sanctions on Venezuelan oil, but this latest military escalation appears to have countered that news.
The U.S. is sending more Navy forces to the Mediterranean to reinforce its presence in the region, with Brg. Gen. Ryder saying "By posturing these U.S. naval assets and advanced fighter aircraft in the region, we aim to send a strong message intended to deter a wider conflict to bolster regional stability and of course to make it clear that we will protect and defend our national security interests."
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com