U.S. strikes Yemen again as campaign to thwart Houthis intensifies

U.S. strikes Yemen again as campaign to thwart Houthis intensifies

U.S. forces on Tuesday launched a new round of strikes on Yemen’s Houthis, targeting what officials said was four missiles apparently being readied for attacks on commercial shipping vessels.

The early morning operation marks at least the third time in the last week that military action has been taken against the Iran-backed group, signaling what could be the beginning of an enduring campaign. The militants have launched nearly 30 attacks on merchant ships in the region since November, linking their actions to the war in Gaza and Western support for Israel.

The latest strike occurred at 4:15 a.m. in Yemen, according to U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations across the region. The Houthi missiles “presented an imminent threat to both merchant and U.S. Navy ships,” said a U.S. military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. The U.S. strikes followed a militant attack Monday on the M/V Gilbratar Eagle, a U.S. owned and operated ship. The strikes were first reported by Reuters.

The Houthis once again appeared undeterred.

Later Tuesday, at about 1:45 p.m. in Yemen, the militants launched an anti-ship ballistic missile into the Red Sea, Central Command said. The crew of a commercial vessel, the M/V Zografia, a Maltese-flagged ship, reported to authorities that it had been struck but was still seaworthy and would continue on its voyage.

Combined, the violence make clear that even after U.S. and British forces launched dozens of strikes last week on Houthi targets, the militants are intent to and capable of continuing their attacks on commercial shipping in an unpredictable cycle of violence.

U.S. forces have sought to stem the attacks in part by interdicting the supply of weapons from Iran to Yemen. On Thursday, Navy SEALs boarded a small ship known as a dhow in the Arabian Sea, finding Iranian-made missile warheads and related weapons components. Two SEALs were lost at sea during the operation, prompting a search-and-rescue operation that was still underway Tuesday.

John Kirby, a spokesman with the White House National Security Council, said Tuesday that when the United States launched dozens of strikes in Yemen last week, senior U.S. officials “fully anticipated” that the Houthis would “probably conduct some retaliatory strikes.”

The missiles destroyed by the U.S. military on Tuesday “we believe were prepped and ready to be launched from Yemen,” Kirby said.

While the militants have not had a “catastrophically successful” attack on shipping yet, Kirby said, it “doesn’t mean that we can just turn a blind eye and sit back and do nothing.”

But the United States also is not seeking a war with the Houthis, he said.

“We’re not looking to expand this,” Kirby said. “They still have time to make the right choice, which is to stop these reckless attacks.”

Alex Horton contributed to this report.  » …
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