(Daily Caller)—The U.S. and United Kingdom conducted retaliatory strikes against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen on Thursday evening Washington, D.C., time following a cascade of attacks on commercial shipping, the White House said.
The Houthis have launched at least 27 drone and missile attacks against commercial vessels transiting near the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, the U.S. military said Thursday, operations the group says come in opposition to Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza. U.S. and U.K. military assets, with assistance from Australia, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands, struck “a number of targets” in Yemen early morning Friday Sana’a time, the White House said, and is the first time the U.S. has conducted deliberate strikes against targets linked to the Houthis since the group began attacking international shipping in late 2023.
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“These strikes are in direct response to unprecedented Houthi attacks against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea—including the use of anti-ship ballistic missiles for the first time in history,” President Joe Biden said in the statement.
U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was preparing earlier to authorize strikes on the Houthis following a meeting with the National Security Council and briefings with Parliament, according to The Financial Times. The Pentagon had already drawn up potential targets, U.S. officials told the outlet.
The strikes involved fighter jets and ships and submarines firing Tomahawk missiles, CNN reported, citing U.S. and U.K. officials. The coalition targeted Houthis’ drone, ballistic and cruise missile, and coastal radar and air surveillance capabilities, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement.
“If necessary, we will take follow-on actions to protect U.S. forces,” Austin said.
Houthi forces had bunkered down forces and took steps to conceal sensitive assets in anticipation of strikes, U.S. officials said, The Wall Street Journal reported. Earlier on Thursday, Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi threatened to retaliate if struck by the U.S., the BBC reported.
“Any American attack will not remain without a response. The response will be greater than the attack that was carried out with twenty drones and a number of missiles,” he said in a televised address, referring to a Wednesday attack local time that was the largest since the group began targeting commercial ships in October.
The U.K. operates a destroyer in the Red Sea and is participating in a U.S.-led coalition, Operation Prosperity Guardian, which is aimed at deterring strikes and reassuring international shipping of the vessels’ safety.
The Pentagon previously declined to comment on rumored plans of strikes on the Houthis earlier Thursday.
📸: Sailors from guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) participate in a vertical replenishment with @TheCVN69 while supporting Operation Prosperity Guardian in the Red Sea, Jan. 8. Led by @CMF_Bahrain's CTF 153, #OPG has more than 20 countries taking part. pic.twitter.com/m9AMaLsoWF
— U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. 5th Fleet (@US5thFleet) January 11, 2024
After Wednesday’s missile and drone barrage, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) reiterated a Jan. 3 warning from the U.S. and partners against the Houthis launching further attacks. Experts said the repeated threat signaled the Pentagon was rapidly losing patience with the Houthis’ insistence on continued attacks.
“I think that statement from multiple nations when it comes to the fact that there will be consequences – should the attacks not stop – speaks for itself. And I’ll just leave it at that,” Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said at a press briefing Thursday afternoon.
Major shipping companies continue to avoid Red Sea transit routes. The Houthis over the weekend appeared to target one of the U.S. guided-missile destroyers operating in the region as part of Operation Prosperity Guardian.
U.S. military assets in the Red Sea include 130 aircraft and the warships assigned to the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, carrying about 4,000 sailors and Marines, White House National Security spokesperson John Kirby said at a Jan. 3 press briefing.
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