US, British forces carry out more strikes against Houthis in Yemen

Smoke rises in the sky following U.S-led airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, February 25, 2024. REUTERS/Adel Al Khader © Thomson Reuters

By Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. and British forces carried out strikes against more than a dozen Houthi targets in Yemen on Saturday, officials said, the latest round of military action against the Iran-linked group that continues to attack shipping in the region.

A Royal Air Force Typhoon aircraft is prepared to conduct further strikes against Houthi targets, February 24, 2024. Cpl Tim Laurence RAF/UK MOD/Handout via REUTERS© Thomson Reuters

   The United States has carried out near daily strikes against the Houthis, who control the most populous parts of Yemen and have said their attacks on shipping are in solidarity with Palestinians as Israel strikes Gaza.

   The strikes have so far failed to halt the Houthis’ attacks, which have upset global trade and raised shipping rates.

A joint statement from countries that either took part in the strikes or provided support, said the military action was against 18 Houthi targets across eight locations in Yemen including underground weapons and missile storage facilities, air defense systems, radars and a helicopter.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the strikes were meant “to further disrupt and degrade the capabilities of the Iranian-backed Houthi militia.”

   “We will continue to make clear to the Houthis that they will bear the consequences if they do not stop their illegal attacks, which harm Middle Eastern economies, cause environmental damage and disrupt the delivery of humanitarian aid to Yemen and other countries,” Austin said.

The strikes were supported by Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

Al Masirah TV, the main television news outlet run by the Houthi movement, said on Saturday that U.S. and UK forces carried out a series of strikes in the capital, Sanaa.

It quoted an unnamed Houthi military source as saying the renewed raids were “a miserable attempt to prevent Yemen from providing support operations to the Palestinian people in Gaza.”

   Earlier this week the Houthis claimed responsibility for an attack on a UK-owned cargo ship and a drone assault on a U.S. destroyer, and they targeted Israel’s port and resort city of Eilat with ballistic missiles and drones.

   The group’s strikes are disrupting the vital Suez Canal shortcut that accounts for about 12% of global maritime traffic, forcing a longer, more expensive route around Africa.

No ships have been sunk nor crew killed during the Houthi campaign. However there are concerns about the fate of the UK-registered Rubymar cargo vessel, which was struck on Feb. 18 and its crew evacuated. The U.S. military has said the Rubymar was carrying more than 41,000 tons of fertilizer when it was hit, which could spill into the Red Sea and cause an environmental disaster.

The European Union has launched a naval mission to the Red Sea “to restore and safeguard freedom of navigation”.

The United States has a parallel coalition, Operation Prosperity Guardian, aimed at safeguarding commercial traffic in from attacks by the Houthis.

Source: Reuters/Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali; Additional reporting by Adam Makary, Enas Alashray in Cairo and Mohamed Ghobari in Aden; Writing by Idrees Ali; Editing by Marguerita Choy, Cynthia Osterman and Daniel Wallis