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The Thursday night US and UK-led major strikes on Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, while posing a significant risk for escalating the Gaza war into a regional conflict, still apparently have not deterred the Iran-backed rebel group’s resolve to attack Red Sea shipping and even Western naval vessels.
Houthi spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree released a videotaped address saying “The American and British enemy bears full responsibility for its criminal aggression against our Yemeni people, and it will not go unanswered and unpunished.” Houthi sources have tallied over 70 strikes across five regions of Yemen, indicating that at least five people died in the attacks. The Pentagon indicated over 100 missiles of a variety of types were used.
The US Air Force’s Mideast command said in a statement that a combination of jets, destroyers, and a submarine were used, hitting Houthi “command-and-control nodes, munitions depots, launching systems, production facilities and air defense radar systems” in the operation which followed repeat Houthi attacks on Red Sea vessels. “I will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary,” President Biden had said in a written statement.
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“These strikes are in direct response to unprecedented Houthi attacks against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea—including the use of anti-ship ballistic missiles for the first time in history,” the US Commander-in-Chief had added.
According go more details of the variety of weapons systems and platforms used:
More than 15 F/A-18 Super Hornet strike fighters operating from the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower were involved, according to Fox News, citing unnamed Pentagon sources. Unspecified Air Force fighters operating from a base in the Middle East were also part of the attack. Newsweek has yet to verify these reports.
The USS Florida guided missile submarine and U.S. surface ships launched Tomahawk cruise missiles. It is not clear what other vessels took part in the bombardment, but American Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers have been operating in the Red Sea in recent months.
But though intense, it was a relatively brief attack, likely lasting not more than 30 minutes, or definitely less than an hour. Videos of large fireballs lighting up the night sky flooded social media as key cities like Saana and the port city of Hodeidah were hit, where there also remain large population centers.
But again, the key takeaway here is that after these brief fireworks which many officials have complained comes much too belatedly (though some US lawmakers have already highlighted there was no Congressional approval), the Houthis are likely soon to resume their attacks. Also likely is that there will eventually be more rounds of coalition strikes on Yemen as the crisis endures. Thursday night’s attack is likely to actually result in further reduced commercial shipping traffic in Red Sea waters now visited by war:
- MILITARY ADVISES SHIPS TO AVOID BAB EL-MANDEB: INTERTANKO NOTE
- OIL TANKER FIRM HALTS RED SEA TRIPS AFTER US STRIKES: BBG
- Hafnia has stopped all southern Red Sea shipping, according to a statement from a spokeswoman for the company.
- Tanker Carrying Saudi Crude to Suez U-Turns Before Gulf of Aden: BBG
Videos (unverified) of large fireballs on the horizon have been widely circulating…
A Foreign Ministry statement by a Houthi spokesman, Hussein al-Ezzi, acknowledged “a massive aggressive attack by American and British ships, submarines and warplanes” before going on to say that “America and Britain will undoubtedly have to prepare to pay a heavy price and bear all the dire consequences of this blatant aggression.”
Mohammed Abdul-Salam, the Houthis’ chief negotiator and spokesperson, additionally said the Western powers have “committed foolishness with this treacherous aggression.”
“They were wrong if they thought that they would deter Yemen from supporting Palestine and Gaza,” he said in an online statement, vowing further that “targeting will continue to affect Israeli ships or those heading to the ports of occupied Palestine.”
Yemenis remain defiant, attending large Friday anti-US demonstrations…
Massive protest in Yemen after Biden and the Brits conducted air strikes. pic.twitter.com/7dmJ9SeXGV— Citizen Free Press (@CitizenFreePres) January 12, 2024
The Pentagon has said that it has no plans to send more troops or assets to the region for now, and will monitor the situation, also as all eyes are on US bases in Iraq and Syria, as American forces brace for potential retaliatory attacks from Iran-backed militias.
Importantly, CENTCOM had called out the Iranians specifically. “We hold the Houthi militants and their destabilizing Iranian sponsors responsible for the illegal, indiscriminate, and reckless attacks on international shipping that have impacted 55 nations so far, including endangering the lives of hundreds of mariners, including the United States,” said General Michael Erik Kurilla, USCENTCOM Commander.
The strikes in Yemen (🇾🇪) were carried out or supported by (at least) the following aircraft:— Aerospace Intelligence (@space_osint) January 12, 2024
🇺🇸 RC-135 Rivet Joint
🇺🇸 P-8 Poseidon
🇺🇸 E-2C Hawkeye
🇺🇸 15+ F/A-18 Super Hornets
🇬🇧 Voyager tanker
🇬🇧 4 Typhoons
(Thread will be updated with photos/videos)
Meanwhile, Dave DeCamp at AntiWar.com provides the following brief backgrounder of the history of the war which raged in Yemen going back to 2015. Interestingly, Saudi Arabia was quick to distance itself from Thursday night’s major Western coalition operation…
* * *
The US and its allies have a history of killing civilians in Yemen, as the UN estimated in 2021 that about 377,000 people were killed by the US-backed Saudi/UAE war against the Houthis that started in 2015. More than half died of starvation and disease caused by the blockade and the coalition’s brutal bombing campaign.
The strikes risk shattering a fragile truce between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition that’s held since April 2022, although the Saudis have distanced themselves from the US anti-Houthi activity in the Red Sea.
Some members of Congress have criticized President Biden for launching the strikes in Yemen without congressional authorization. “The President needs to come to Congress before launching a strike against the Houthis in Yemen and involving us in another middle east conflict. That is Article I of the Constitution,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) wrote on X.