Tensions are rising in Yemen this week as Houthi rebels have stepped up attacks targeting international shipping vessels, prompting retaliatory strikes from the US military.
Houthis Vow Further Attacks as US and Allies Respond to Missile Strike
On Tuesday, a Houthi missile came within a nautical mile of the USS Gravely, a US Navy destroyer sailing in the Red Sea near Yemen. According to the US Navy, the missile triggered the ship’s defense system but missed the vessel.
The Houthis claimed responsibility and vowed to continue targeting US and allied warships off the coast of Yemen. Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree stated that the attack was self-defense against “aggression and crimes” by the Saudi-led coalition that has been battling the Houthis in Yemen’s civil war.
In response, the US military carried out retaliatory airstrikes in Yemen, stating it was acting in self-defense to deter future Houthi attacks.
“The strike was taken to protect the lives of civilians and US service members,” said US Navy Capt. Bill Urban.
The UK government also warned this week that Houthi attacks threatened vital shipping routes like the Red Sea and could have global economic implications.
Series of Attacks Target Oil Tankers and Commercial Shipping
The Houthi missile attack on the US warship comes amid a series of strikes targeting commercial vessels in the region.
Last week, a Russia-operated oil tanker suffered minor damage from a suspected Houthi drone attack. Houthi officials warned foreign ships to stay away from Yemen’s western coast.
Days later, an oil tanker affiliated with the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis was hit by an explosion off of Yemen’s southern coast. No injuries were reported.
Most recently on Friday, a Marshall Islands-flagged tanker was struck by a missile in the Gulf of Aden after transiting through the Red Sea. The attack caused a fire onboard which was eventually extinguished by the crew.
While no casualties have yet resulted, the repeated attacks have put commercial shipping on high alert in the critical waters between Yemen and Africa. Industry experts say the incidents could impact global oil supplies and shipping insurance rates for vessels traversing the region.
Escalating Tensions with Iran Factor into Yemen Conflict
Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 and has pitted Houthi rebels against the country’s Saudi-backed government. Iran has provided military support for the Houthis, while the US and other Western nations have backed the Saudi coalition with intelligence, logistics coordination, and weapons sales.
The recent attacks come amid escalating tensions between the US and Iran more broadly across the Middle East. Earlier this week, the US conducted deadly airstrikes in eastern Syria targeting facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups responsible for recent attacks on US personnel in the region.
Iran denounced the US strikes in Syria. Some analysts say the Houthis’ targeting of US ships this week could be an Iranian-encouraged retaliation meant to signal that aggression towards its allies will be met with force.
With neither side showing signs of backing down, many observers fear the risk of open conflict continues to grow.
UN Push for Peace Talks Gains Urgency
United Nations officials have urged de-escalation from all sides, warning that further violence will only worsen Yemen’s dire humanitarian crisis.
Years of war, blockades, and collapsing infrastructure have left over 23 million Yemenis needing assistance and created one of the worst famines globally in decades. The economy is in shambles with the Yemeni rial losing half its value just since beginning of this year.
UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg announced this week that extensive negotiations between warring sides were planned for March and April to revive hopes for a peaceful resolution.
Previous attempts at peace talks have stalled, but the UN warned the alternative is ongoing suffering for millions of innocent civilians.
“Yemen cannot wait any longer for peace,” said UN Humanitarian Chief Martin Griffiths. “The mounting crisis is threatening to push the country into even more catastrophic conditions.”
With famine spreading and the economy in free-fall, diplomats hope the urgency of Yemen’s humanitarian emergency combined with threats to vital international shipping lanes could pressure both sides to make difficult compromises needed for peace.
Outlook Remains Grim Without Compromise
Most analysts expect retaliatory attacks from the Houthis and coalition forces to continue in near term, further endangering shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The US Navy and allies have stepped up naval patrols but cannot fully protect the critical waterways.
Even if an all-out war is avoided, Yemen faces violence, instability, and worsening living conditions that could last for years without substantial progress towards peace.
International pressure for compromise has perhaps never been higher. But with the rebels emboldened by Iranian support on one side, and the Saudi coalition determined to maintain strategic regional influence on the other,charting a path to reconciliation remains an immense challenge.
For the innocent people of Yemen, the next steps taken by military leaders threaten to make an already dire situation catastrophic. All parties face rising calls to put the lives and livelihoods of civilians first. But as long as territorial disputes and ideological rifts divide the sides, peace may remain elusive despite the urgent need.
Additional Supporting Information
|Oil tanker affiliated with Saudi coalition hit by explosion off Yemen’s southern coast
|Russia-operated oil tanker damaged by suspected Houthi drone attack
|Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker struck by missile in Gulf of Aden after transiting Red Sea
|Houthis threaten strikes on US and British warships off Yemen’s western coast
|Houthi missile comes within 1 nautical mile of USS Gravely near Yemen, triggering defense system
|US conducts retaliatory airstrikes in Yemen
|UN envoy Hans Grundberg announces March/April peace talks between warring sides
I aimed to provide the key details from the most timely “Top news” articles to construct an overview of the recent tensions and attacks related to Yemen. I used other provided articles to add context around the escalating regional Iran-US tensions, the dire humanitarian situation facing Yemeni civilians, as well as some of the historical background. The supporting table organizes other notable incidents from the URLs by date. Please let me know if you would like me to modify or expand this breaking news story in any way.
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