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ConflictsMiddle East

Red Sea: US, UK airstrikes target Iran-backed Houthis

February 24, 2024

Following an increase in attacks on vessels in the Red Sea, the US and British militaries conducted joint airstrikes for the fourth time on over a dozen Houthi targets in Yemen.

A military jet taking off
The US and its allies have launched several rounds of airstrikes, like the one pictured here, against Houthi rebelsImage: CENTCOM/Anadolu/picture alliance

The United States and the United Kingdom launched airstrikes Saturday targeting Houthi rebels in Yemen in response to the group's continued attacks in the Red Sea, the Pentagon said.

American and British fighter jets hit about 18 targets across eight locations, targeting missiles, launchers, rockets, drones and unmanned surface and underwater vehicles.

"The United States will not hesitate to take action, as needed, to defend lives and the free flow of commerce in one of the world's most critical waterways," said US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. "We will continue to make clear to the Houthis that they will bear the consequences if they do not stop their illegal attacks."

"These precision strikes are intended to disrupt and degrade the capabilities that the Houthis use to threaten global trade, naval vessels, and the lives of innocent mariners in one of the world's most critical waterways," a joint statement read. 

The airstrikes mark the fourth time the US and UK have carried out joint operations against the Houthis since January 12. The US has been carrying out almost daily strikes to take out Houthi targets, including targeting drones aimed at ships and weapon facilities.

'Precision strikes' to deter Houthi attacks

RAF Typhoon jets engaged in "precision strikes" aimed at degrading Houthi drones and launchers, said UK Defense Secretary Grant Shapps, adding they came after the Houthis continued to launch strikes in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

The airstrikes were in response to the Houthi strikes that damaged a UK-owned ship in the Red Sea last week and another British-owned cargo ship that was attacked in the Gulf of Aden earlier this week, Shapps said.

The strikes have support from the wider coalition, which includes Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and New Zealand. 

The US fighter jets launched from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier, which is currently in the Red Sea. 

Germany sends frigate to help secure Red Sea

Washington puts pressure on Houthis

The airstrikes mark an uptick in pressure from Washington in the Middle East to curb attacks from Houthis, which is an Iranian-backed rebel group, to prevent the spread of the Israel-Hamas war in the region.

Washington has maintained the US has no interest in beginning a war with Iran, but it has struggled with carving out an effective way to diminish the Houthis' attacks against commercial ships in the Red Sea.

The Houthis have declared support for Hamas militants in the Israel-Hamas war. Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by many governments, including the US, UK and Israel.

"Our aim remains to de-escalate tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea, but we will once again reiterate our warning to Houthi leadership: we will not hesitate to continue to defend lives and the free flow of commerce in the face of continued threats," said the Saturday statement.

Germany joins EU mission to protect Red Sea

The Red Sea is one of the most important trade routes between Europe and Asia and hundreds of commercial ships used it daily. Attacks, however, have forced shipping companies to reroute their vessels on a longer route.

Germany announced Friday that it was joining a European Union naval mission to protect the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and surrounding waters. 

rm/sms (AP, Reuters)