Joint U.S.-British attack kills at least 16 in Yemen; Houthis claim attack on carrier

Airstrikes carried out by the United States and Britain targeting the Houthi rebel group in Yemen killed at least 16 people and wounded 35 on Thursday, according to Houthi media reports. If confirmed, the death toll would make the strikes the deadliest to have been publicly acknowledged in the months-long campaign.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Friday that the strikes were carried out in “self-defense” with the aim “to further degrade the military capabilities of the Houthis and to prevent further attacks on international shipping.”

A U.S. Central Command statement said the strikes destroyed eight Houthi unmanned vehicles and hit 13 other targets in Houthi-controlled parts of Yemen. The British Defense Ministry said the attacks struck buildings near Hodeida and other targets in the country’s south.

The buildings hit were “identified as housing drone ground control facilities and providing storage for very long range drones, as well as surface to air weapons,” according to the U.K. statement.


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The Houthis on Friday threatened to escalate attacks on Red Sea shipping in response to the strikes.

A satellite news channel run by the Houthis showed images from the aftermath of the strikes. In one video, a man’s body covered in blood and dust is carried out of a damaged building and onto a dark street. In another, injured men are shown in a hospital ward receiving treatment. The media outlet described those killed as civilians. The Washington Post was unable to immediately verify the claims.

Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree, a Houthi military spokesman, said the attacks struck targets in the capital, Sanaa, and the port city of Hodeida, including one that hit a radio building.

“This represents a clear targeting of civilian structures, a blatant violation of all international laws and a full-fledged war crime,” Saree said.

The Houthis responded by launching a large attack against the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, an aircraft carrier in the Red Sea, according to Saree. The attack was “in response to crimes and within the framework of the response to the U.S.-U.K. aggression,” he said in a televised statement. He described the Houthi retaliation as a “precise and direct” hit.

The Houthis have claimed attacks on the aircraft carrier in the past that were later denied by the Pentagon. A U.S. defense official said Friday that there were no reports of an attack on the Eisenhower.

Later, another U.S. defense official familiar with the situation said they were aware of and assessing the reports out of Yemen, but did not immediately have anything more to add.

“The utmost care was taken in planning the strikes to minimise any risk to civilians or non-military infrastructure,” the British Defense Ministry said in its statement on the strikes. “Conducting the strikes in the hours of darkness should also have mitigated yet further any such risks.”

The attack Thursday appears to be one of the largest conducted by U.S. and U.K. forces since the campaign against the Houthis was launched in January, but U.S.-led forces conduct near-daily strikes against the group. Despite the significant sustained military operations, Houthi attacks appear undeterred.

The group began attacking shipping in response to the war in Gaza last year. Houthi leaders have said the attacks are conducted in solidarity with the Palestinian people and will stop once Israel ends its war against Hamas in Gaza.

The Houthis are an Iranian-backed rebel Yemeni group that overthrew the country’s government and outlasted a years-long Saudi-led bombing campaign. The group now controls large swaths of the country, including the capital and the strategic Red Sea port of Hodeida.

In recent weeks, Houthi attacks in the Red Sea have surged. A Greek-owned Marshall-Islands-flagged ship came under missile attack earlier this week. Also this week, the Houthis claimed that a U.S. drone was downed over Yemen. Houthi attacks have damaged ships and killed crew members.

U.S. and U.K. officials have said operations in the Red Sea will continue until the Houthis are deterred from launching further attacks on commercial shipping.

George reported from Dubai and Bisset from London. Dan Lamothe contributed reporting from Washington.

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