Thursday Briefing: The Fight Against Houthi Rebels

The U.S. and its allies are trying to figure out how to stop attacks by Houthi rebels based in Yemen against commercial ships in the Red Sea. This comes after American and British forces said yesterday that they intercepted one of the largest barrages of missiles and drones yet.

Here’s the latest.

Iran backs the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The attacks, which are in solidarity with Hamas in its war against Israel, have forced major shipping companies to reroute vessels away from the Red Sea, a major shipping corridor. They have created delays and led to higher prices for oil and other goods.

The Biden administration has said it will hold the Houthis responsible for the attacks. That warning suggested the U.S. might be considering retaliatory strikes on Houthi territory in Yemen, officials said. Britain said it was also considering taking military action if the attacks didn’t stop.

A Houthi spokesman said Tuesday’s attack was in response to an assault by the U.S. Navy from 10 days ago that sank three Houthi boats, killing their crew members. He added that the group would continue the attacks “until the aggression stops and the siege on our steadfast brothers in Gaza is lifted.”

President Daniel Noboa of Ecuador declared a 60-day state of emergency amid a wave of violence that followed a top gang leader’s disappearance from prison. Noboa imposed a nationwide curfew and authorized the military to patrol the streets and take control of prisons.

Explosions, looting and gunfire have been reported, along with uprisings in several prisons. Gunmen stormed a TV studio during a live broadcast. Noboa declared that an internal armed conflict was underway and ordered the military to “neutralize” two dozen gangs, which he said were terrorist organizations.

Background: Adolfo Macías, or “Fito,” had been running the Los Choneros gang from behind bars. The government recently ordered that high-profile convicts be transferred to a maximum-security facility, which could have prompted his escape and led to the uprisings. Some experts believe that gangs control up to a quarter of Ecuador’s prisons.

The man who last week stabbed Lee Jae-myung, South Korea’s top opposition leader, wanted to kill him in order to end his presidential bid, the police said. Lee, 59, was released yesterday from a hospital in Seoul.

The police said that the 66-year-old man had written an eight-page manifesto and had planned the attack for months. The stabbing was the worst act of violence against a South Korean politician in nearly two decades and drew attention to the hostility between conservatives and liberals, which seemed to be​ deepening ahead of the parliamentary elections scheduled for April.

Adm. Richard Byrd was once known around the world for his expeditions to Antarctica. His son, who shares his name, for decades has directed his energies toward preserving his father’s legacy, even to the point of obsession.

Lives lived: Amalija Knavs, a former Slovenian factory worker who became a U.S. citizen with help from one of her daughters, Melania Trump, has died at 78.

Africans in at least 17 countries will cast ballots this year to choose a president or national legislature. In West Africa, Senegal and Ghana, islands of stability in a region beset by coups, will hold elections. In East Africa, the youngest nation in the world, South Sudan, will also head to the polls, while in southern Africa a new generation of voters will test the parties that led the continent’s struggles for independence.

Here’s a look at the elections that will put democracy to the test in Africa.

Can liberation movements survive? A new generation of voters will test liberation-era parties in South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and Botswana. South Africa is the most closely watched contest. There, 30 years after Nelson Mandela became president, the governing African National Congress faces widespread discontent.

Will a military junta hand over power? After successive coups, the ruling junta in Mali has promised to return power to a democratically elected government, but the generals in charge have already postponed the election scheduled for February, without announcing a new date.

Will a strongman be victorious? In power since 2000, President Paul Kagame is once again vying to lead Rwanda. Human rights groups have accused him of abuses, but Kagame points to the country’s relative economic successes since the genocide of 1994 as he cements his power.

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