U.S., Britain launch new wave of military strikes in Yemen

U.S. and British forces launched a new wave of strikes in Yemen on Saturday, hitting dozens of military targets used by Iranian-backed militants responsible for repeated attacks on commercial vessels and military warships off the Arabian Peninsula, officials said.

The operation was concentrated on 13 locations, including “deeply buried” weapons-storage facilities, missiles and launchers, air defenses and radars, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement. Strikes were launched by sea and air, with F/A-18 fighter jets from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower participating and ships in the Red Sea launching Tomahawk missiles, one official said. It was not immediately clear whether anyone was killed.

Austin said the military action was intended to send “a clear message” that there would be “further consequences” unless the attacks stop. “We will not hesitate to defend lives and the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways,” he added.

Military personnel from Canada, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands provided support, officials said.

The strikes in Yemen follow the bombardment Friday night of an estimated 85 targets in Iraq and Syria, opening what the Biden administration has cast as a multi-day campaign to prevent future attacks on American personnel. Militias based in both countries, also aided by Iran, have targeted U.S. forces at least 165 since since October, including one incident on Jan. 28 that killed three U.S. soldiers at a remote outpost in Jordan.

President Biden has said that the U.S. response to their deaths will continue “at times and places of our choosing.”

The Houthis, a militant group that seized control of much of Yemen in 2014, has for months launched attacks on both civilian and military vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, using an array of missiles, one-way attack drones, and remotely piloted vessels packed with explosives. Like the militias in Iraq and Syria, the Houthis have framed their actions as a protest of Israeli military action on the Gaza Strip and U.S. support for it.

To date, the Houthi attacks have not killed any civilians or U.S. forces at sea, but the near-daily violence has significantly disrupted global shipping. U.S. warships have shot down numerous missiles and attack drones, but others have struck commercial vessels, causing fires and prompting a large number of mariners to avoid the Red Sea and Suez Canal, and instead make a much longer, and costlier, voyage around the southern Horn of Africa.

Initially, the Biden administration mostly avoided tangling directly with the Houthis, fearful that a miscalculation or overreaction could set off more widespread violence as the Middle East seethes over Gaza crisis. That changed early last month, when the United States joined with Britain to launch dozens of strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen.

Since then, U.S. forces have carried out numerous operations there, targeting missiles before they can be fired.

Earlier Saturday, U.S. forces carried out six such strikes, said U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the region. In a statement, Centcom officials said that they had identified anti-ship cruise missiles that were to be launched into the Red Sea.

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