The Houthis Keep Claiming, Without Evidence, To Have Hit US Warships

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

The Houthi rebels have continued to claim to hit American warships but have not provided any evidence, with the most recent claim coming on June 1, when the group said it hit a destroyer.

The June 1 claim from the Houthis also stated they targeted the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, which they claimed to have struck on May 31. This claim was rejected by U.S. officials, with a Department of Defense (DOD) spokesperson telling Check Your Fact at the time that “nothing happened to the Ike.”

Another DOD spokesperson told Check Your Fact that the June 1 claims regarding the Eisenhower and the destroyer were false. U.S. Central Command released a June 1 statement that the Houthis fired anti-ship ballistic missiles toward the USS Gravely, both of which were shot down without damage to any vessels.

The claims from the Houthis spawned a river of false claims against the Eisenhower, with false images and videos being spread widely on social media, according to CBS News. Check Your Fact also debunked a few claims related to the Eisenhower. (RELATED: Was The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Struck By Houthi Rebels)

Sabrina Singh, the deputy spokesperson for the DOD, said to Check Your Fact that “I’m not the spokesperson for the Houthis, so I can’t explain why they post what they post or why they make inaccurate claims.”

The Houthis joined in targeting Israel in October 2023, launching several missiles and drones toward the country, according to The Associated Press. This came in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel, when Hamas militants attacked southern Israel and killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped 250 people.

The Houthis later expanded their attacks on commercial shipping, hijacking at least one ship and launching missiles towards others. They have also sunk one commercial vessel, the Rubymar.

“In terms of the risk the Houthi’s actions pose to U.S. ships, I’d urge you to look at the threat they pose to commercial shipping. This is why the Secretary announced the formation of Operation Prosperity Guardian last year in order to protect the freedom of navigation,” Singh said.

In response to the Houthis launching missile attacks, the United States announced Operation Prosperity Guardian, in December 2023. The U.S. has also launched airstrikes against the Houthis, hitting them on several different occasions with the United Kingdom.

“They do post their misinformation on their social media platforms, so I’d direct you there for how many times they’ve claimed to hit one of our ships,” Singh said.

Since the announcement of Operation Prosperity Guardian, a Check Your Fact analysis found that the Houthis claimed to have targeted U.S. warships at least 11 times, including Jan. 24, Jan. 29, March 5, May 15, and May 31. The Houthis also claimed to have targeted the Ocean Jazz, a military cargo ship on Jan. 22, a claim that was denied by the U.S., according to Reuters.

Among these claims, it appears that the the rebel group has claimed to have hit U.S. warships at least four times: Jan. 24, May 15, May 31 and June 1. None of these claims have been substantiated with evidence.

A defense official said to Check Your Fact that “there is no truth to the Houthi’s claim of striking the USS Eisenhower or any U.S. Navy vessel.” The defense official further told Check Your Fact that “there has never been a successful attack on any U.S. Navy vessel.”

“This is an ongoing disinformation campaign that the Houthis have been conducting for months. While the Houthis intend to target our vessels, we can confirm there has never been a successful attack on any U.S. Navy vessel,” the defense official said.

“Disinformation like this is yet another example of malign and reckless behavior by the Iranian backed Houthis which threatens regional stability and endangers the lives of mariners across the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden,” the defense official added.

The Houthis also have announced on different occasions that they target American destroyers with drones, such as on April 29 and May 27. While they don’t claim directly that they hit the destroyers, they state that these operations’ “goals” were “achieved”  “successfully,” a Check Your Fact review of their social media posts shows.

The Houthis have posted evidence that they’ve hit other American military hardware on its website, but not any evidence of them striking American warships. For instance, they posted a video of them allegedly shooting down a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone in late May, with the Houthis claiming it the sixth MQ-9 they’ve shot down over or near Yemen, according to Reuters.

A defense official told Check Your Fact at the time that they had no intelligence to indicate that a “CENTCOM/DOD” MQ-9 drone was shot down. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is known to fly MQ-9 drones over Yemen and the CIA declined to comment to the Associated Press about the incident. 

Experts told Check Your Fact that they have not seen any evidence for the Houthi claims.

Brent Sadler, a former U.S. Navy captain and a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told Check Your Fact that “none” of the Houthi’s claims “have been substantiated.”

“I have heard numerous claims by the Houthis to have struck an American warship, none of these have been substantiated. As for the number of such claims, I do not have a number,” Sadler said.

“That said, the danger is real and ever-present which makes the performance of the U.S. Navy in the Red Sea commendable. Yet, there is much that these attacks are showing as to the limits of our military’s capabilities too. One capability that is needed to keep U.S. warships in-the-fight is re-arming at-sea their vertical launch system (VLS), as well as options to repairs our warships nearer a battle – in this case in East Africa or Middle East,” Sadler added.

Ari Sacher, a senior policy adviser at the U.S. Israel Education Association, told Check Your Fact that he had not seen any evidence for the Houthis claim of hitting U.S. warships.

It appears that the closest the Houthis have gotten to hitting an American warship was a Jan. 30 attack. A Houthi anti-ship cruise missile came within a mile of the USS Gravely but was destroyed by a Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) before it could hit the Gravely, according to CNN. (RELATED: Video Claims To Show USS Dwight D. Eisenhower On Fire)

It does not appear that the Houthis put a statement on social media claiming the attack, but a search of website did show the Houthis claiming responsibility for the attack, saying it targeted the USS “Greely” (presumably, the Gravely.)

A Check Your Fact tally found that the Houthis have claimed at least 28 attacks on U.S. ships, both U.S. naval vessels and commercial ships. A defense official told Check Your Fact that the Houthis have attacked or threatened U.S. Navy and commercial vessels 173 times since Nov. 19, 2023.

Alex Plitsas, a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told CBS News that the Houthi attacks “against Israel, U.S. and allied ships, and propaganda claiming false attacks are all designed to give them recognition and legitimacy as a power on the world stage.”

Max Keating contributed to this report. 

Update 06/07/2024: This article has been updated with a comment from Ari Sacher. 

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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