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Missiles fired from rebel-held Yemen land near US destroyer

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Two missiles fired from rebel-held territory in Yemen landed near an American destroyer in the Red Sea, the US Navy said Monday, the second such launch targeting ships in the crucial international waterway in recent days.

The missile launches Sunday came as a ballistic missile fired from Yemen apparently targeted a Saudi air base near the Muslim holy city of Mecca, the deepest strike yet into the kingdom by Shi’ite rebels and their allies.

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The rebels fired another two missiles into the Saudi Jizan region along the border on Monday, wounding two foreigners who worked there, the local civil defense said in a statement.

Yemen’s Shi’ite rebels, known as Houthis, and their allies offered no reason for the launches, though they came after a Saudi-led airstrike targeting a funeral in Yemen’s capital killed more than 140 people and wounded 525 on Saturday.

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In a statement, the Navy said no American sailors were wounded and no damage was caused to the USS Mason, an Arleigh Burke class of guided missile destroyer whose home port is Norfolk, Va.

Lieutenant Ian McConnaughey, a spokesman for US Navy Forces Central Command, said that it was unclear if the USS Mason was specifically targeted, though the missiles were fired in its direction over an hour’s time, starting at around 7 p.m.

An American defense official said the ship used onboard defensive measures after the first missile was fired, but it wasn’t clear if that caused the missile to splash harmlessly into the sea.

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The destroyer was north of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which serves as a gateway for oil tankers headed to Europe through the Suez Canal, the official said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the incident that haven’t been made public.

The Houthi-controlled SABA news agency of Yemen quoted an anonymous army official denying its forces fired on the USS Mason, without elaborating.

At the United Nations on Monday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the UN Human Rights Council to establish an independent body to investigate rights abuses and other violations in Yemen, especially following last weekend’s ‘‘horrendous attack’’ on the funeral.

Last week, an Emirati-leased Swift boat came under rocket fire near the same area and suffered serious damage. The United Arab Emirates described the vessel as carrying humanitarian aid and having a crew of civilians, while the Houthis called the boat a warship.

US Navy officials declined to immediately discuss what kind of rockets were used in the USS Mason incident.

Analysts with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy suggested in a report that the Houthis may have targeted the Emirati ship with an Iranian anti-shipping cruise missile, based on purported video of the attack.

The airstrikes, from rebel-held territory, came days after a Saudi-led attack targeted a funeral in Yemen’s capital, killing more than 140 people.

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Iran supports the Houthis, but denies arming them. Any Iranian involvement could exacerbate tensions with the United States following a series of tense naval encounters in the Persian Gulf in recent months.

Saudi state television aired a brief clip of what appeared to be a projectile that was said to have landed in Taif, in the ballistic missile attack. The video shows the flash of an explosion, followed by images of emergency vehicles.

Taif is home to Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd Air Base, which hosts US military personnel training the kingdom’s armed forces.

The Saudi military said the missile fired late Saturday night was intercepted and caused no damage. The US military’s Central Command, which oversees troops in the Middle East, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Al-Masirah, a Houthi-run satellite news channel, identified the missile as a local variant of a Soviet-era Scud. It said the Volcano-1 missile targeted the air base.

The Houthis have fired a series of ballistic missiles in Saudi Arabia since a kingdom-led coalition of Arab countries launched an offensive against them in Yemen in March 2015. Most of those ballistic missiles have hit areas far closer to Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen.

In the Taif attack, however, the missile struck a target more than 325 miles from the border. Taif also is just outside of Mecca, which is home to the cube-shaped Kaaba that all of the world’s Muslims pray toward.

The Saudi military said it earlier intercepted another ballistic missile fired Sunday on the Yemeni city of Marib.

The Houthis gave no reason for their targeting of Taif, but it comes after a Saudi-led airstrike Saturday targeting the funeral in Yemen’s capital, Sana. On Sunday, thousands marched through the streets of Sana to protest the strike, one of the deadliest single attacks in the impoverished Arab country’s relentless civil war.

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