Houthis continue attacks after Western strikes target launch sites

The Iranian backed Houthis have launched at least three attacks on international shipping and a United States warship after the U.S. and the United Kingdom targeted Houthi offensive capabilities over the weekend. The Houthis have vowed to continue attacks and singled out U.S. and U.K. shipping.

Today, a anti-ship ballistic missile launched from Houthi-controlled Yemen struck the Merchant Vessel Gibraltar Eagle, U.S. Central Command reported. The M/V Gibraltar Eagle was not significantly damaged and no casualties were reported. Two hours earlier, the Houthis launched an anti-ship ballistic missile towards the Red Sea, however “the missile failed in flight and impacted on land in Yemen,” according to CENTCOM.

On Jan. 14, the Houthis launched an anti-ship cruise missile at the USS Laboon, an Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer, however the missile was shot down by U.S. fighter aircraft patrolling the region.

The Houthis have conducted at least 30 attacks on international shipping and coalition warships since Nov. 19, 2023, according to figures released by CENTCOM. The attacks have forced a significant percentage of merchant vessels to bypass the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, and take a longer, more costly route around the Horn of Africa.

Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree vowed that attacks in the Red Sea and the Bab Al Mandeb Strait would continue until Israel ended military operations “and the siege on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip is lifted.” The Houthis, which are hostile to both the U.S. and Israel, are part of Iran’s “Axis of Resistance” and are attacking shipping as part of Iran’s goal of forcing Israel to prematurely end operations against Hamas as well as drive U.S. forces from the region.

The Houthis also said that it “consider all American and British ships and warships participating in the aggression against our country as hostile targets within the target bank of our forces,” and vowed that a “a response to the American and British attacks is inevitably coming.”

The U.S. and U.K., backed by several other countries, attacked Houthi missile launch sites, airfields, weapons storage facilities and air defense sites on Jan. 11 as part of an effort “designed to degrade capability and try and restore deterrence,” a Western official told PBS Newshour’s Nick Schifrin. The Jan. 11 strikes were followed by a small secondary strike on Jan. 13.

Attacks on Houthi sites have since ceased, indicating that the U.S. and U.K. led coalition is not conducting a campaign to destroy Houthi capabilities, but is hoping to deter Houthis from conducting future attacks. The Houthi response indicates that deterrence has not been restored.

Joe Truzman is a research analyst at FDD's Long War Journal focused primarily on Palestinian militant groups and Hezbollah. Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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