US and UK launch fresh strikes against Houthis in Yemen

  • Ruth Comerford & Frank Gardner, Defense Correspondent
  • BBC News

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The US and UK have launched a new series of airstrikes against Houthi targets in Yemen.

Monday's strikes hit eight targets, including an underground storage facility and a Houthi missile and surveillance capability, the Pentagon said.

The Iran-backed Houthis have been targeting ships allegedly linked to Israel and the West that travel along the vital Red Sea trade route.

The US and UK said they were trying to protect the “free flow of trade”.

A joint statement released by the Pentagon confirmed “an additional round of proportionate and necessary strikes” against the Houthis.

The statement added: “Our aim is to defuse tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea, but let us reiterate our warning to the Houthi leadership: We will not hesitate to protect the free flow of lives and trade in the world's largest countries. Critical waterways face constant threats.”

This is the eighth US strike against Houthi targets in Yemen. This is the second joint action with the UK after joint strikes on January 11.

Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron told reporters that the UK had sent a “clear message” that it would “continue to degrade” the Houthis' ability to carry out attacks.

Asked whether the strikes would escalate tensions in the Middle East, Lord Cameron said the Houthis were escalating the situation and that he was “hopeful” previous strikes had worked.

He said he “should not accept” the Houthis' narrative that the attacks were linked to the war between Israel and Hamas, and that the UK wanted to see a “swift end to the conflict” in Gaza.

Lord Cameron said the UK had called for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” and “we want this to become a permanent, sustainable ceasefire”. This is the plan he will present during his visit to the region this week, he said.

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The strikes were carried out with the support of Australia, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands, the joint statement said.

US warplanes from the carrier USS Eisenhower carried out the strikes on Monday.

Four RAF Typhoons, supported by a pair of Voyager tankers, joined the US forces, the UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) said.

“Our aircraft used Paveway IV precision-guided munitions to strike multiple targets at two military bases near Sana'a airfield. These locations were used to continue unprovoked attacks against international shipping in the Red Sea,” the MoD said.

“In line with standard UK practice, more rigorous analysis was used in planning strikes to minimize the risk of civilian casualties, and as with previous strikes, our aircraft bombed at night to minimize such risks,” it added.

Government minister Huw Merriman told Sky News the airstrikes were “not a one-off” if the Houthis continue to attack ships in the Red Sea.

UK Defense Secretary Grant Shabbs described it as “defence” against the Houthis' “unbearable attacks” on merchant shipping.

“This move is aimed at degrading the capabilities of the Houthis and will deal another blow to their limited reserves and ability to threaten global trade,” he wrote in X.

It is understood that neither UK Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle nor Opposition Leader Sir Keir Starr were informed of the new strikes.

The strikes were carried out in Yemen's Sana'a, Taiz and Bayda provinces, including al-Taylami air base near the capital Sanaa, Houthi-run Al Masira TV reported.

Ten days after the first carefully calibrated joint air and missile attack by the US and UK, the Houthis are fighting back.

They have continued to launch various types of projectiles as they pass off Yemen's coast, in one case mistakenly targeting a Russian oil tanker.

Under the newly named Operation Poseidon Archer, the US-led strikes have now struck new targets after earlier carrying out several preemptive strikes on Houthi launch sites.

The Pentagon says they destroyed the missiles while they were ready to launch. Western intelligence has recently estimated that at least 30% of the Houthi missile stockpile has been destroyed or damaged.

Yet the Houthis, supplied, trained and instructed by Iran, are clearly intent on continuing their attacks on ships suspected of being linked to Israel, the US or the UK.

These are very popular with many Yemenis at home, where they are being chased under their brutal regime.

The Houthis are popular with many in the wider Arab world, as they say they support Hamas as part of an Iran-backed 'resistance axis' against Israel.

This comes after US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke earlier on Monday.

In an official readout of their phone call, the White House said Mr Biden and Mr Sunak “discussed Iranian-backed Houthi attacks against merchant and naval vessels crossing the Red Sea”.

They reiterated their “commitment to freedom of navigation, international commerce and the protection of seafarers from unlawful and unjustifiable attacks,” the White House said.

It added: “The President and the Prime Minister discussed increasing humanitarian aid and civilian protections for people in Gaza and the release of hostages held by Hamas.”

The Houthis began attacking merchant ships in November, saying they were retaliating against Israel's military ground operation in Gaza.

Since then, the group has carried out dozens of attacks on commercial tankers plying the Red Sea, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

In response, on January 11, the US and UK launched airstrikes against dozens of Houthi targets.

Those strikes – backed by Australia, Bahrain, the Netherlands and Canada – began after Houthi forces ignored an ultimatum to stop attacks in the region.

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