A U.S. military surveillance drone was shot down off the coast of Yemen on Wednesday by Iran-backed Houthi rebels, the Pentagon said.
Pentagon officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss operational matters, confirmed that the drone, an MQ-9 Reaper, had been shot down. But they would not say if the aircraft was armed, where it was flying from or other details.
The downing of a Reaper drone, the mainstay of the American military’s aerial surveillance fleet, was the latest escalation of violence between the United States and Iran-backed groups in Yemen, Iraq and Syria. The episodes have underscored the risks that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas could spiral into a wider war.
On Oct. 19, a U.S. Navy warship in the northern Red Sea shot down four cruise missiles and more than two dozen drones launched from Yemen that the Pentagon said might have been headed toward Israel.
Yemen’s Houthi militia claimed it had attempted an attack on southern Israel on Oct. 31, saying it had launched a “large batch” of ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as drones, toward Israeli targets. The Israeli military said its aerial defense system had intercepted a surface-to-surface missile fired toward Israel “from the area of the Red Sea.” It said it had also intercepted other “aerial threats” in the area, none of which entered Israeli territory.
The Defense Department said on Wednesday that there had been at least 41 attacks on U.S. forces in Syria and Iraq by Iran-backed militias since Oct. 17. At least 46 U.S. service members have been injured, 25 of whom suffered traumatic brain injuries, the Pentagon said.