Feb 3, 2024 - World

U.S. and U.K. launch fresh wave of strikes targeting Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen

U.S. Central Command forces alongside U.K. Armed Forces conduct strikes on eight targets in Iranian-backed Houthi areas of Yemen on  Jan. 23. Photo: CENTCOM/Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images

U.S. Central Command forces alongside U.K. Armed Forces conduct strikes on eight targets in Iranian-backed Houthi areas of Yemen on Jan. 22. Photo: CENTCOM/Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images

The U.S. and U.K. carried out a new wave of strikes against the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen on Saturday in an effort to "disrupt and degrade the capabilities" of the rebels to "conduct their reckless and destabilizing attacks" in the Red Sea, the Pentagon said.

The big picture: It is the third round of U.S. and U.K. airstrikes against Houthi targets in Yemen since the first on Jan. 11.

  • Saturday's strikes were supported by Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, according to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
  • They targeted 13 locations in Yemen that were associated with the Houthis' "missile systems and launchers, air defense systems, and radars," Austin said in a statement.
  • Unlike the previous strikes, the targets on Saturday also included underground bunkers, which the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said were used by the Houthis to store weapons.

What they're saying: "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," Austin said.

  • "We will not hesitate to defend lives and the free flow of commerce in one of the world's most critical waterways," he added.

Behind the scenes: A U.S. official said the decision to conduct the third round of strikes was made a week ago after a Houthi missile hit a British ship, but it took several days to finish the planning of the new strikes.

State of play: The Houthis have conducted dozens of attacks on commercial and military vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November.

  • The Houthis say they launched the attacks in protest of the Israeli military's bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza that started after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

Zoom out: Saturday was the second day of major U.S. strikes against Iran-linked groups in the region.

  • The U.S. on Friday carried out retaliatory strikes against 85 targets linked to Iran or Iranian proxies in Syria and Iraq in response to last weekend's deadly attack on U.S. forces in Jordan.
  • U.S. officials, including President Biden, have warned those retaliatory strikes would not be limited to one day or location.

Go deeper: U.S. puts Yemen's Houthi rebels back on global terrorist list

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