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June 24, 2024

U.S. Strikes Back After Houthi Rebels Attack Ships in Red Sea

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Jan 17, 2024

The Biden administration launched additional military strikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen on Monday after several attacks targeted international commercial ships over the weekend. The U.S. said the strikes were aimed at degrading the Houthis’ capabilities and preventing future assaults.

Timeline of Recent Attacks

Date Event
January 14 Houthis fire anti-ship missile at USS Laboon destroyer
January 15 Houthis strike commercial vessel off Yemen’s coast
January 16 U.S. jet shoots down Houthi missile targeting USS Laboon
January 16 Houthis fire cruise missile at U.S. destroyer in Red Sea
January 16 U.S. and allies strike Houthi military sites in retaliation

The latest violence began on Saturday when Houthi rebels launched missiles at a U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Laboon, while it was sailing off the coast of Yemen in the Red Sea. The missiles missed the warship and landed in the water, but drew an immediate military response from the U.S.

On Sunday, the rebels struck again, this time targeting an international commercial ship sailing about 80 miles off the coast of war-ravaged Yemen. Details remain scarce, but officials believe it was a Malta-flagged cargo ship that was hit.

U.S. Launches Retaliatory Strikes

Infuriated by the bold attacks on allied vessels, the U.S. military launched retaliatory strikes on Monday aimed at crippling the capabilities of the Iran-backed Houthis.

The U.S. armed forces said they targeted Houthi ballistic missile batteries, air defense systems, command posts, weapons depots, and other military infrastructure. The goal was to degrade the rebel faction’s means of carrying out attacks in the future.

“These strikes targeted Houthi military capabilities to limit their ability to conduct future attacks that threaten access to critical sea lanes, [and] responds to direct threats to innocent civilians in Saudi Arabia,” the U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

The U.S.-led air campaign reportedly involved American warplanes as well as armed drones and included participation from ally Saudi Arabia. There was no immediate word on casualties from the bombardment.

This week’s clashes come after months of rising tensions that saw the Houthis step up missile and drone attacks on Saudi targets. The Iran-aligned group has also launched strikes on vessels near the strategic Bab al-Mandeb Strait at the mouth of the Red Sea, raising fears about threats to the global trade route.

Who Are The Houthis?

The Houthis are an Islamist militant movement turned rebel faction fighting Yemen’s internationally recognized government in a brutal civil war. The conflict has killed tens of thousands and created one of the worst humanitarian crises of modern times.

The Houthis adhere to the Zaidi sect of Shia Islam and get their name from founder Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi. They emerged in Yemen in the 1990s as a theological movement preaching peace and tolerance, but grew more militant in 2004 after Hussein was killed by government forces.

The group charges they have faced political and economic marginalization in Yemen, which sits along the southern border of Saudi Arabia. They built alliances with Yemen’s toppled ex-president and continue receiving weapons, training and funding from Saudi’s arch-rival Iran.

The civil war erupted in 2014 when the Houthis seized control of the capital and ousted the Saudi-backed president. A Saudi-led coalition has been battling the rebels since 2015, creating a disastrous war of attrition with neither side able to score decisive gains.

Escalating Conflict Raises Fears

The latest exchange of fire in the Red Sea sparked fears that sporadic attacks could hamper shipping near the critical Bab al-Mandab Strait, a chokepoint for global trade and energy shipments.

About a tenth of all global trade passes through the narrow passage, including nearly all exports of oil and gas shipments from the energy-rich Persian Gulf.

Military tensions along the vital corridor also raised worries about the potential for clashes with Iran, which backs the Houthis in Yemen’s war and has had its own recent run-ins with the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf.

Some analysts cautioned that the Houthi attacks appeared primarily aimed not directly at oil tankers or Western warships, but rather at pressuring the Saudi-led coalition to ease an air and sea blockade on Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen.

Still, with both sides vowing more reprisals and counterstrikes, diplomats worked urgently behind the scenes on Monday to encourage de-escalation and prevent Yemen’s conflict from spiraling into regional war.

The U.S. said its goals were limited to protecting freedom of navigation and deterring future Houthi aggression in the Red Sea. Still, some critics argued Biden should not risk entangling the U.S. further in Yemen’s war without authorization from Congress.

For now, ordinary citizens across the Middle East anxiously hope the storm passes without triggering wider fighting that could upend lives and livelihoods across the conflict-weary region.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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