WASHINGTON (Agencies): In an ongoing series of developments, the United States has executed another set of strikes against the Houthis in Yemen, marking the fourth instance of targeting the Iran-backed rebel group within a week, according to statements from three U.S. officials.
The US employed Tomahawk missiles in this operation, directing them at approximately 14 Houthi missile launchers responsible for attacks on international shipping lanes, one of the officials disclosed. The Tomahawk missiles were launched from US Navy surface vessels and the USS Florida, a guided missile submarine, as per another official.
These strikes are the latest actions taken against the Houthis, following significant US-led strikes last week with the support of the UK and a few other allies. The developments occur amid escalating tensions in the Middle East and concerns that the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza could further escalate throughout the region.
Earlier, the Houthis targeted a US-owned and operated vessel for the second time in the week, using a one-way attack drone to strike the M/V Genco Picardy in the Gulf of Aden, according to US Central Command. While no injuries were reported on the commercial vessel, it sustained some damage but was able to continue its journey.
On Monday, the Houthis hit another US-owned and operated vessel with an anti-ship ballistic missile, marking what seemed to be the first successful attack of this nature against a US asset since the group began attacking international shipping lanes in mid-November.
The US has been striving to avoid significant escalation in the region as concerns rise over the potential spillover of the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Despite the Houthis claiming that their attacks are a protest against Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, as well as ongoing attacks on US and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria and clashes between Israel and Hezbollah over the Israel-Lebanon border, the Pentagon insisted that the Israel-Hamas conflict remains contained.
“Clearly, there are tensions in the Middle East. There have been tensions there since the Israel-Hamas conflict kicked off… But, to answer your question, no, we currently assess that the fight between Israel and Hamas continues to remain contained in Gaza,” stated Pentagon spokesman Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder during a press briefing.
These latest strikes coincide with the US’s re-designation of the Houthis as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) entity on the same day.
“These attacks are a clear example of terrorism and a violation of international law, posing a major threat to lives and global commerce while jeopardizing the delivery of humanitarian assistance,” emphasized a senior US administration official on Tuesday.
While the US had previously indicated that last week’s strikes would degrade the Houthi capabilities to carry out attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea, the rebels have persisted. A US official revealed that last week’s strikes, in total, destroyed approximately one-third of the Houthis’ overall offensive capabilities.
Officials anticipate some form of retaliation by the Houthis, and on Monday, a US-owned and operated cargo ship, the M/V Gibraltar Eagle, was hit by an anti-ship ballistic missile in what appeared to be the first such occurrence by the rebel group. On Tuesday, the Houthis launched another anti-ship ballistic missile into the Southern Red Sea’s international shipping lanes, mere hours after the US targeted four anti-ship missiles in additional strikes.