In a significant move, the United States and the United Kingdom initiated strikes against locations associated with the Houthi movement in Yemen. This marks the first direct response to the Iran-backed group’s ongoing targeting of international shipping in the Red Sea since late last year.
Witnesses within Yemen reported explosions across the country to Reuters, confirming the strikes. President Joe Biden, in a late Thursday statement, emphasized that further actions would be taken if necessary, framing the targeted strikes as a resolute message against attacks on personnel and threats to freedom of navigation.
Biden stated, “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.”
According to the UK Ministry of Defense, early assessments indicate a significant impact on the Houthis’ capacity to pose a threat to merchant shipping.
A Houthi official labeled the strikes as “American-Zionist-British aggression,” confirming their occurrence in the capital Sanaa, Saada, Dhamar, and Hodeidah governorate.
The ongoing strikes represent a noteworthy escalation in the broader Israel-Hamas conflict in the Middle East since its eruption in October.
A U.S. official, speaking anonymously, disclosed that the strikes involved aircraft, ships, and submarines, targeting over a dozen locations with the intention of weakening Houthi military capabilities beyond symbolic gestures.
The Houthi movement, controlling the majority of Yemen, has persistently ignored international calls, including from the United Nations, to cease missile and drone attacks on Red Sea shipping routes. The strikes aim to counteract the Houthi’s disruption of a crucial route between Europe and Asia, responsible for about 15% of global shipping traffic.
In defiance of warnings, the Houthi attacks, totaling 27 to date, have severely impacted international commerce.
Witnesses reported that the recent strikes targeted various military sites, including a base near Sanaa airport, a military location near Taiz airport, a Houthi naval base in Hodeidah, and military sites in Hajjah governorate.
President Biden’s statement highlighted the Houthi’s direct targeting of American ships, reinforcing the necessity of the strikes.
In response to the Houthi leader’s warning earlier in the day, Biden affirmed the unified international response, with Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands supporting the operation.
The strikes occurred outside the defensive coalition Operation Prosperity Guardian, established in December to safeguard commercial traffic in the Red Sea, with over 20 participating countries. The resolute response underscores the international community’s commitment to countering the Houthi’s reckless attacks on global shipping routes.