U.S. Central Command carried out a strike against two surface drones carrying explosives Monday afternoon, as the Iran-backed Houthi rebel attacks in the Red Sea continue to threaten Navy ships and commercial vessels in the region.

The “self-defense” strike happened after U.S. forces determined that the unmanned vessels were carrying explosives and posed a threat to ships in the area.

CENTCOM identified the drones in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen before taking them out.

“These actions will protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure for U.S. Navy vessels and merchant vessels,” CENTCOM tweeted.

Houthi aggression has ramped up in recent months with attacks in the Red Sea targeting commercial vessels since October, attacks Houthi leaders say are in support of Palestinians as the Israel-Hamas war rages.

In the midst of continued Houthi attacks and counter-strikes, and the bombardment of Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria following a drone attack that killed three U.S. soldiers earlier this month, the Pentagon on Monday characterized the actions as “self-defense” strikes, and not a full-blown war.

“But to be clear, our goal is not to ― okay, game on, let’s just do this and go, you know, full scale war against Iranian proxy groups in Iraq and Syria,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters. “That’s not what we’re there for.”

Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.

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