US claims ‘preemptive’ strikes against Houthi targets

Military says it destroyed vessels and missiles in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen that were aimed at the Red Sea.

A Houthi follower holds a rocket launcher in Sanaa, Yemen [Reuters]Published On 27 Feb 202427 Feb 2024

The United States claims to have conducted fresh strikes against Houthi targets, destroying missiles, unmanned vessels and a drone.

The US military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) announced the attacks late on Monday. It reported that it had struck three unmanned surface vessels and two antiship cruise missiles that were in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, preparing to launch towards the Red Sea. The drone, an “unmanned aerial vehicle”, was targeted over the water.

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CENTCOM claimed that the attacks were launched in self-defence, “to protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure for US Navy and merchant vessels”.

The Iran-aligned Houthis, who control the most populous parts of Yemen, have carried out dozens of attacks on vessels with commercial ties to the US, the United Kingdom and Israel in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November.

The group says the attacks are a response to Israel’s military operations in Gaza. Despite US-UK retaliatory strikes, it has promised to continue its campaign in solidarity with Palestinians until Israel stops its war on Gaza.

The campaign has disrupted international commerce along a route that accounts for about 15 percent of the world’s shipping traffic. Several shipping companies have redirected their vessels around the southern tip of Africa, adding up to two weeks to a journey and between 3,000 and 6,000 extra nautical miles (between 5,556 and 11,112km).

In January, the US re-designated the Houthis as “Specially Designated Global Terrorists” (SDGTs), a status attributed to those who are considered to “threaten the security of the US”.

On Saturday, the US and the UK said they had hit 18 Houthi sites across eight locations in Yemen, including attacks on underground weapons and missile storage facilities, air defence systems, radars and a helicopter.

Responding to the attacks, Yahya Saree, a spokesman for the group, pledged that the Houthis would “confront the American-British escalation with more qualitative military operations against all hostile targets in the Red and Arab Seas”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies