Washington: The United States and Britain launched strikes against sites linked to the Houthi movement in Yemen, the first on the country since the Iran-backed group started targeting international shipping in the Red Sea late last year.
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 carry out 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.”
A Houthi official confirmed “raids” in the capital Sanaa along with the cities of Saada and Dhamar as well as in Hodeidah governorate, calling them “American-Zionist-British aggression.”
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.
One U.S. 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 Houthi’s military capabilities and were not just symbolic.
The Houthis, who control most of Yemen, defied a U.N. 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, which killed 1,200 people.
The Houthi have attacked 27 ships to date, disrupting international commerce on the key route between Europe and Asia that accounts for about 15% of the world’s shipping traffic.
Witnesses told Reuters that the raids on Thursday 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.
Earlier on Thursday, the Houthis’ leader said any U.S. attack on the group would not go without a response.
The Houthis, who seized much of Yemen in a civil war, have vowed to attack ships linked to Israel or bound for Israeli ports. However, many of the targeted ships have had no links to Israel.
27 Attacks by Houthis on ships
The U.S. 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 U.S. and British naval forces to shoot down 21 Houthi drones and missiles fired towards the southern Red Sea. The U.S. military described it as a complex attack.
Biden, in his statement, said the Houthis directly targeted American ships.
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 U.S. 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 in a statement.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Kashmir Monitor staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)