US and UK carry out additional strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen

Jan 22, 2024, 4:27 PM | Updated: 4:30 pm

The U.S. and U.K. carried out additional strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen on Monday. This ae...

The U.S. and U.K. carried out additional strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen on Monday. This aerial photograph taken on March 8, 2023 shows The Pentagon. (Daniel Slim, AFP/Getty Images/FILE)

(Daniel Slim, AFP/Getty Images/FILE)

(CNN) — The U.S. and U.K. carried out additional strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen on Monday, marking the eighth round of attacks by the US military on the rebels’ infrastructure in just over 10 days, according to a joint statement.

They struck eight sites, according to the statement from the U.S. and U.K., which conducted the strikes, and Canada, the Netherlands, Bahrain, and Australia, which supported the attacks.

It was a smaller number than the first joint operation on Jan. 11 that struck over 30 Houthi targets. Monday’s strikes targeted a Houthi underground storage site and sites associates with Houthi missile and air surveillance, the statement added.

The U.S. deployed fighter aircraft from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier as part of the strikes, a U.S. defense official told CNN.

President Joe Biden spoke to his British counterpart U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday, the White House said earlier in the day, about a range of topics including security in the Red Sea.

“Our aim remains to de-escalate tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea, but let us reiterate our warning to Houthi leadership: we will not hesitate to defend lives and the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways in the face of continued threats,” the countries said in their statement.

Grant Shapps, the U.K.’s secretary of state for defense, said four British Typhoon fighter jets took part in the strikes on Houthi targets. He warned that the ongoing Houthi launches against commercial vessels “threaten the lives of sailors and disrupt shipping at an intolerable cost to the global economy.”

CNN reported on Monday that the U.S. has named the ongoing operation to target Houthi assets in Yemen “Operation Poseidon Archer,” suggesting a more organized and potentially long-term approach to the operations in Yemen that have been aimed at deterring the Iranian-backed group from attacking commercial vessels in the Red Sea.

The U.S. has now struck Houthi targets in Yemen eight times since Jan. 11, the majority of which the U.S. military has carried out unilaterally. The first wave of strikes, in which the U.S. and U.K. hit approximately 30 sites across Houthi-controlled Yemen, marked the beginning of Operation Poseidon Archer, one official said.

The attacks have targeted the Houthis’ one-way attack drones, anti-ship ballistic missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles and more as the U.S. has tried to disrupt the group’s ability to fire on international shipping lanes.

Deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh said on Monday that the Houthis had not launched a new attack on commercial shipping since Jan. 18. The Houthis claimed on Monday to have attacked a U.S.-owned cargo ship, the M/V Ocean Jazz, but a defense official told CNN that claim was not true.

Iran’s role

Iran has been quietly fueling the attacks, U.S. officials have said, enabling and supporting its proxy groups across the region. Tehran has been supplying the Houthis with tactical intelligence and weapons to help them target ships in the Red Sea, CNN previously reported. Iran has also continued to supply its proxy groups in Iraq and Syria, where US and coalition forces have come under attack over 150 times since Oct. 17.

On Saturday, Iranian proxy militias launched one of their largest ballistic missile attacks since October on al-Asad airbase in Iraq, leaving two U.S. service members with traumatic brain injuries, Singh said on Monday.

Biden acknowledged on Thursday that the US strikes were not stopping the Houthis, who have continued to target, and in some cases hit, U.S.-owned commercial vessels operating off the coast of Yemen.

But Biden said the US airstrikes would continue, anyway. And Singh said on Monday that it would ultimately be up to the Houthis and the Iranian proxy groups when to end their attacks.

Singh said last week that the Pentagon’s initial assessments are that the strikes against the Houthis have been “very successful” in destroying “pretty much all of the targets that we hit,” leaving one less missile or capability that the Houthis can then deploy in the Red Sea.

The Houthis have said that they won’t stop their attacks until the war between Israel and Hamas inside Gaza comes to an end. Houthi leader Abdul Malek al-Houthi said in a speech on Thursday that it is “a great honor and blessing to be confronting America directly.”

Last week, the U.S. Navy intercepted a vessel off the coast of Somalia destined for Houthi-controlled parts of Yemen that was carrying Iranian-made missile components, Central Command announced in a statement. That operation resulted in the deaths of two Navy SEALs who fell overboard while attempting to board the boat, CENTCOM said.

The U.S. also carried out all of its strikes on Houthi targets last week unilaterally, in contrast to the coalition of countries that supported the first round of joint US and UK strikes on the Houthis on Jan. 11.

Singh said on Thursday that future joint action wasn’t off the table, but that CENTCOM Commander Gen. Erik Kurilla had the authority to order strikes when he deemed it necessary to protect ships in the region, including US Naval assets stationed in the Red Sea. After each of the strikes the U.S. conducted against the Houthis last week, CENTCOM said that the missiles the U.S. destroyed were being prepared for imminent launch by the Houthis.

National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby told reporters on Thursday that the administration is “making it harder” for the Houthis to continue their attacks with each strike on their infrastructure. And he noted that the administration has “additional options” available to it if the Houthis don’t stop. But he declined to preview what those options might look like.

“I’m not going to telegraph punches one way or another, except to say what the president said this morning– that if the Houthis continue to go down this path, we will continue to do what we can to disrupt and degrade their ability to make those choices,” he said.

“We’re not looking for a conflict with the Houthis, we’re not looking for a conflict in the region,” he added. “But we have to be able to act in our own self-defense, not just for our ships and our sailors, but for merchant ships and merchant sailors and international shipping in the Red Sea.”

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US and UK carry out additional strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen