Shipping at the centre of war: US and UK launch massive strike against Houthis

The US and UK militaries with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands launched strikes against multiple Houthi targets in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen on Thursday, marking a significant response after the Biden administration and its allies warned that Houthis would bear the consequences of repeated drone and missile attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea.

The strikes hit radars, air defense systems, and storage and launch sites for one way attack unmanned aerial systems, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

US President Joe Biden confirmed today that he ordered the strikes “in direct response to unprecedented Houthi attacks against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea.”

The strikes are a sign of the growing international alarm over the threat to one of the world’s most critical waterways.

For weeks, the US had sought to avoid direct strikes on Yemen because of the risk of escalation in a region already simmering with tension as the Israel-Hamas war continues, but the ongoing Houthi attacks on international shipping compelled the coalition to act.

More than 2,000 ships have been forced to divert thousands of miles to avoid the Red Sea, which can cause weeks of delays in product shipping times, Mr. Biden noted.

“These attacks have endangered U.S. personnel, civilian mariners, and our partners, jeopardized trade, and threatened freedom of navigation. More than 50 nations have been affected in 27 attacks on international commercial shipping. Crews from more than 20 countries have been threatened or taken hostage in acts of piracy. And on January 9, Houthis launched their largest attack to date—directly targeting American ships,” the president said in a statement released by the White House.

Biden added that he will “not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary.”

David Cameron, UK´s secretary of state for foreign, commonwealth and development affairs, said “The UK and US have carried out targeted strikes on Houthi military targets in Yemen. The safety of UK vessels and the freedom of navigation across the Red Sea is paramount and that is why we are taking action.” 

Iranian media outlets report today that Iran has vehemently condemned the military actions undertaken by the United States and Britain in Yemen, labeling them as “arbitrary” and a blatant violation of Yemen’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.