U.S., British militaries strike Houthi targets in Yemen in response to attacks on shipping

The United States and the United Kingdom launched more than a dozen strikes against Houthi military targets in Yemen in response to more than a month and a half of Houthi attacks on merchant vessels and warships in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandeb Strait.

The targets of the coalition strikes included “training sites and airfields to drone storage sites,” according to Voice of America. The action was “a substantive set of strikes designed to degrade capability and try and restore deterrence,” a Western official told PBS Newshour’s Nick Schifrin.

A U.S. intelligence official who wishes to remain anonymous told FDD’s Long War Journal that the target package also included air defense sites. The coalition attacks were carried out by manned aircraft as well as cruise missiles launched from warships in the Red Sea.

The coalition did not target an Iranian intelligence ship that is sailing the Red Sea and providing targeting information to the Houthis.

Today’s attack took place two days after the Houthis launched a barrage of weapons, including 18 drones, two anti-ship cruise missiles, and one anti-ship ballistic missile at merchant vessels and Western warships in the Red Sea. That attack took place one week after the U.S. and 12 other countries warned the Houthis that there would be repercussions if attacks continue.

It is unclear if the U.S. and the United Kingdom will continue to target Houthi capabilities, which include anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles and drones provided by Iran, or if today’s strikes are a warning to the Houthis to cease their attacks. The Biden administration has been very clear that it does not seek an escalation to the wider regional conflict as Israel battles Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and with U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria under attack from Iranian-backed militias.

The Houthis have launched 27 attacks against international shipping since November 19. It is unclear if those attacks included those that targeted U.S., British and French warships. In addition to launching anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles and drones, the Houthis have also boarded ships using helicopters and boats. One merchant vessel and its crew are being held hostage at a Houthi-controlled port in Yemen.

The Houthis, a Shia militia which formed in the 1990s and seized the capital of Sana’a in 2014, are part of Iran’s Axis of Resistance, which seeks to aid Hamas in its fight again Israel. The Houthis are also belligerent to the U.S. for the latter’s support of Saudi Arabia and the UAE for interfering in Yemen’s ongoing civil war. The Houthis’ motto is “God Is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam.” Despite previous recognition by the U.S. as being a terrorist organization, the Houthis are no longer designated as such following the Biden administration’s removal of the Trump-era designation.

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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