Houthis pledge further Red Sea attacks after 3rd round of US-UK airstrikes in Yemen

New Delhi | Updated: 04 February, 2024 9:33 pm IST
US-UK airstrikes prompt Houthis to promise continued Red Sea offensives in Yemen.

NEW DELHI: On Saturday night, a new round of airstrikes by the US and UK targeted 36 Houthi sites in Yemen. In response, the militant group pledged to persist in their assaults on commercial shipping in the Red Sea.

Six additional nations, including Canada, the Netherlands, and Bahrain, joined in backing the attack. According to the US, the airstrikes focused on 13 sites throughout Yemen, aiming at underground weapons storage, missile systems, launchers, and various capabilities employed by the Iranian-backed Houthis for assaulting shipping in the Red Sea.

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“We have issued repeated warnings to the Houthis,” UK foreign secretary, David Cameron, said, adding, “Their reckless actions are putting innocent lives at risk, threatening the freedom of navigation and destabilising the region. The Houthi attacks must stop.” Previously, the US and UK had conducted joint strikes on January 11 and 23.

The attack took place one day after the Pentagon targeted Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria in retaliation for the death of three US soldiers at a military base along the Jordan-Syria border a week prior.

Why US and UK are launching strikes against Houthis?

The overarching strategic conflict involves the US, seeking to compel Tehran to restrain its allied forces in the region, against Iran, which is determined to support these forces. The goal for Iran is to exert pressure on the US to withdraw from the region and prevent the destruction of Hamas in Gaza.

Both Washington and Tehran, however, aim to avoid direct confrontation. Tehran has established a red line, explicitly warning the US against launching any direct attacks on Iranian territory—a strategy preferred by numerous US Republicans.

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Clarifying the motive behind the strikes on the Houthis, US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, stated, “This collective action sends a clear message to the Houthis that they will continue to bear further consequences if they do not end their illegal attacks on international shipping and naval vessels.”

His British counterpart, Grant Shapps, remarked, “The Houthis’ attacks on commercial and military vessels in the Red Sea are illegal and unacceptable and it is our duty to protect innocent lives and preserve freedom of navigation.

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“That is why the Royal Air Force engaged in a third wave of proportionate and targeted strikes against Houthi military targets in Yemen.

“This is not an escalation. We have already successfully targeted launchers and storage sites involved in Houthi attacks, and I am confident that our latest strikes have further degraded the Houthis’ capabilities.”

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However, according to The Guardian, Yahya Sarea, the Houthi military spokesperson, stated that the attacks “will not go unanswered, and there will be repercussions.”

The Houthis reported a total of 48 attacks, with 13 occurring in the capital, Sana’a. Their actions have effectively dissuaded commercial shipping from using one of the busiest global waterways, resulting in increased transportation expenses and insurance premiums.

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The airstrikes in Yemen, now in their third week, are happening concurrently with ongoing US retaliation for repeated attacks on US military bases in Iraq, Jordan, and Syria. On Friday, the US initiated its first wave of attacks, targeting over 85 locations in Iraq and Syria associated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its supported militias. The strikes reportedly resulted in the deaths of nearly 40 people.

Initially, expressions of support for the US and UK airstrikes on the Houthis were limited to Australia, Canada, Bahrain, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Denmark.

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On Saturday, Josep Borrell, the EU Foreign Policy Chief, urged all parties to refrain from escalating tensions in the Middle East. He emphasised the importance of avoiding an explosive situation, stating that every attack adds to the escalation. The ministers have conveyed their profound concern about this ongoing process.

“We can only call on everybody to understand that at any moment from this series of attacks and counterattacks, a spark can produce a greater incident,” he added.

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The EU is launching its own naval mission in the Red Sea this month. The mission aims to safeguard European shipping, with a focus on defensive operations rather than offensive actions.

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