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US, Britain launch strikes against Houthis in Yemen

Courtesy: Geo News/Reuters

Britain’s ministry of defense said that early indications are that the Houthis’ ability to threaten merchant shipping has taken a blow

  • Strikes launched from air, sea against Houthi military targets.
  • Houthis’ ability to threaten merchant shipping has “taken a blow”.
  • Strikes intended to weaken Houthis’ military capabilities.

WASHINGTON/ADEN: The United States and Britain launched strikes from the air and sea against Houthi military targets in Yemen in response to the movement’s attacks on ships in the Red Sea, a dramatic regional widening of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

As witnesses in Yemen confirmed explosions throughout the country to Reuters, President Joe Biden cautioned in a statement late on Thursday he would not hesitate to take further action if needed.

“These targeted strikes are a clear message that the United States and our partners will not tolerate attacks on our personnel or allow hostile actors to imperil freedom of navigation,” Biden said.

Britain’s ministry of defense said in a statement that “early indications are that the Houthis’ ability to threaten merchant shipping has taken a blow.”

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who is in hospital due to surgery complications, said in a statement that the strikes targeted Houthi capabilities including drones, ballistic and cruise missiles, costal radar and air surveillance.

A Houthi official confirmed “raids” in the capital Sanaa along with the cities of Saada and Dhamar as well as in the Hodeidah governorate, calling them “American-Zionist-British aggression.”

Witnesses told Reuters that the raids targeted a military base adjacent to Sanaa airport, a military site near Taiz airport, a Houthi naval base in Hodeidah and military sites in Hajjah governorate.

The ongoing strikes are one of the most dramatic demonstrations to date of the widening of Israel-Hamas war in the Middle East since its eruption in October, although the U.S. said there was no intent to escalate tensions.

One US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the strikes were being carried out by aircraft, ship and submarine. The official said more than a dozen locations were targeted and the strikes were intended to weaken the Houthis’ military capabilities and were not just symbolic.

“The aim of these strikes was very clear from the start and from the President, and it was to remove capability for the Houthis to target maritime vessels, whether they be commercial or military,” a different senior US military official said.

The Houthis, who control most of Yemen, defied a UN and other international calls to halt their missile and drone attacks on Red Sea shipping routes and warnings from the United States of consequences if they failed to do so.

The Houthis say their attacks are in support of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that controls Gaza. Israel has launched a military assault that has killed more than 23,000 Palestinians in Gaza after Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct 7, in which 1,200 people died and 240 were abducted.

Since late December, the Houthi have attacked 27 ships, disrupting international commerce on the key route between Europe and Asia that accounts for about 15% of the world’s shipping traffic.

The Houthis, who seized much of Yemen in a civil war, vowed to attack ships linked to Israel or bound for Israeli ports. However, many of the targeted ships have had no links to Israel.

The Houthis’ leader said on Thursday any US attack on the group would not go without a response.

27 attacks by Houthis on ships

The US military said on Thursday that the Houthis fired an anti-ship ballistic missile into international shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden, the 27th attack by the group since Nov 19.

The overnight strikes in Yemen came just days after the Houthis’ largest attack to date on Jan 9 in the Red Sea, which forced the US and British naval forces to shoot down 21 Houthi drones and missiles fired towards the southern Red Sea. The US military described it as a complex attack.

Biden, in his statement, said the Houthis directly targeted American ships.

Prominent Republicans in Congress welcomed the move, but called it overdue, while some of Biden’s Democrats expressed concern the U.S. could get entangled in another decades-long war.

“This strike was two months overdue, but it is a good first step toward restoring deterrence in the Red Sea,” US Senator Roger Wicker, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.

In December, more than 20 countries agreed to participate in a U.S.-led coalition, known as Operation Prosperity Guardian, safeguarding commercial traffic in the Red Sea. However, the US and British strikes are taking place outside that defensive coalition.

Biden said Australia, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands supported the operation.

“The response of the international community to these reckless attacks has been united and resolute,” Biden said.

1- Header image: An RAF Typhoon aircraft takes off to join the US-led coalition from RAF Akrotiri to conduct air strikes against military targets in Yemen, aimed at the Iran-backed Houthi militia that has been targeting international shipping in the Red Sea, in Cyprus, in this handout picture released on January 12, 2024. — Reuters

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