US, UK Lead Retaliatory Strike Against Houthis in Yemen

Naveen Athrappully
By Naveen Athrappully
February 25, 2024Middle East
US, UK Lead Retaliatory Strike Against Houthis in Yemen
A Royal Air Force Typhoon aircraft takes off to join others in conducting further strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen on Feb. 24, 2024. (Cpl. Tim Laurence/RAF/UK Ministry of Defense via AP)

Multiple nations, led by the United States and the United Kingdom, launched strikes against the Houthis in Yemen on Saturday following the terrorist group’s continued attacks against naval and commercial vessels traveling through the Red Sea and surrounding waters.

The strikes were supported by Australia, Bahrain, Denmark, Canada, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. “Today’s necessary and proportionate strikes specifically targeted 18 Houthi targets across 8 locations in Yemen,” said a Feb. 24 joint statement. These targets are “associated with Houthi underground weapons storage facilities, missile storage facilities, one-way attack unmanned aerial systems, air defense systems, radars, and a helicopter.”

The strikes aimed to “disrupt and degrade the capabilities that the Houthis use to threaten global trade, naval vessels, and the lives of innocent mariners in one of the world’s most critical waterways.”

On Feb. 22, a Houthi missile attack struck a British-owned vessel and injured a crewmember. On Feb. 19, another missile attack nearly struck a U.S.-owned ship delivering humanitarian aid to Yemen. A day earlier, there was an assault against a UK vessel, forcing the crew to abandon the ship.

To date, the Houthis have launched over 45 attacks on naval and commercial vessels since mid-November, constituting “a threat to the global economy, as well as regional security and stability, and demand an international response.”

In the joint statement, the group of nations asserted their goal was to de-escalate tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea but that they will not hesitate to retaliate to defend life and the free flow of commerce.

Houthis denounced the joint attack, stating that the Yemeni Armed Forces will confront the “US-British escalation with more qualitative military operations against all hostile targets in the Red and Arabian Seas,” according to AP.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani accused the United States and Britain of seeking to “escalate tensions and crises in the region” while expanding the scope of the conflict, according to The Times of Israel.

In a statement about the attack, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin affirmed that the United States “will not hesitate to take action” to protect commerce through one of the world’s most critical waterways.

“We will continue to make clear to the Houthis that they will bear the consequences if they do not stop their illegal attack.”

UK Defense Secretary Grant Shapp also stated his country’s stance on the matter, saying “it is our duty to protect lives at sea and preserve freedom of navigation.”

Action Against Houthis
Over the past month and a half, there have been 32 U.S. strikes in Yemen, a few of them conducted with allies. In addition, American warships have also taken out several missiles, drones, and rockets targeting naval or commercial vessels.

So far, U.S. operations against Houthis have targeted over 120 launchers; 40 storage and support buildings; 20 unmanned air, surface, and underwater vehicles; over 10 surface-to-air-missiles; and multiple underground storage facilities, according to AP.

During a press briefing on Thursday, Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh said the Houthis increased their attacks over the last two to three days. She also acknowledged that Houthis have not been deterred while pointing to Iran’s backing the group.

“We never said we’ve wiped off the map all of their capabilities … We know that the Houthis maintain a large arsenal,” Ms. Singh said. “They are very capable. They have sophisticated weapons, and that’s because they continue to get them from Iran.”

There are concerns that America’s continued strikes against Houthis may end up becoming a proxy war with Iran. Last month, Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said that the Biden administration has no intention to push the conflict in this direction.

“We are not at war in the Middle East … Clearly, there are significant tensions in the Middle East,” he said. “Our goal here is not to escalate or get into a conflict with the Houthis. Our goal is to prevent these continued attacks against the international community and international shipping transiting the Red Sea.”

In January 2021, the Trump administration designated Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). President Joe Biden reversed the designation shortly after.

However, last month, the Biden State Department designated the Houthis as a specially designated global terrorists (SDGT)—a softer label compared to FTO—amid the current conflict. This resulted in an asset freeze aimed at cutting off financing for the Houthis.

Meanwhile, the European Union is also strengthening military presence in the Red Sea. It has launched a naval mission “to restore maritime security and freedom of navigation in a highly strategic maritime corridor,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement, according to Reuters.

“Within its defensive mandate, the operation will provide maritime situational awareness, accompany vessels, and protect them against possible multi-domain attacks at sea,” he said.

From The Epoch Times

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