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Fourth round of US strikes in Yemen as Houthis vow retaliation

The US launched the strikes just hours after the Houthis hit a US-owned, Marshall Islands-flagged cargo vessel off Yemen's southern coast on Wednesday.
AKROTIRI, CYPRUS - JANUARY 12: In this handout image provided by the UK Ministry of Defence, an RAF Typhoon aircraft returns to berth following a strike mission on Yemen's Houthi rebels at RAF Akrotiri on January 12, 2024 in Akrotiri, Cyprus. On Thursday evening, four RAF Typhoons launched from RAF Akrotiri to conduct strikes against Yemen's Houthi rebels, who have been targeting merchant vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden with missiles and drones. According to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the s

WASHINGTON – The United States launched a new round of strikes on more than a dozen Houthi missiles in Yemen on Wednesday, marking a new volley in the emerging back-and-forth conflict as the Iran-backed faction has refused to stop striking commercial shipping.

Just before midnight, local time, the US military “conducted strikes on 14 Iran-backed Houthi missiles that were loaded to be fired in Houthi controlled areas in Yemen,” the US Central Command announced late on Wednesday.

“These missiles on launch rails presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and US Navy ships in the region and could have been fired at any time,” CENTCOM said.

The strikes came less than four hours after the Houthis hit a US-owned, Marshall Islands-flagged cargo vessel with an armed drone off Yemen’s southern coast in the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday night. The vessel, the Genco Picardy, sustained damage but continued sailing, CENTCOM said.

The Houthis claimed credit for that attack and renewed a threat to retaliate for a previous round of US-led airstrikes targeting the group’s military sites late last week.

“The Yemeni [Houthi] Armed Forces confirm that a response to the American and British attacks is inevitably coming, and that any new attack will not remain without response and punishment,” spokesperson Brig. Gen. Yehia Saree said earlier on Wednesday.

The Houthis claim their attacks on commercial shipping have been in response to Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip, though many vessels targeted have had no obvious link to Israel.

The US and UK kicked off two waves of air and naval strikes on dozens of Houthi military targets at 28 sepaprate locations across Yemen on Jan. 11 after the group defied warnings by Washington and a number of its allies to halt their attacks.

The Houthis have struck at least three commercial vessels – two of them US-owned and one previously owned by a UK-based firm – in the southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since the first wave of US-led strikes on Jan. 11. The group fired a cruise missile towards a US Navy destroyer on Jan. 14, before US military aircraft intercepted it.

The US launched additional strikes on four Houthi missiles on the ground in Yemen overnight on Tuesday in response. 

Pentagon and White House officials have emphasized that the US-led strikes on Houthi military sites over the past week are not designed to escalate but rather to degrade the Yemeni rebels' abilities to launch further attacks. US officials have said they will continue to take action to inhibit the Houthis' ability to launch attacks if they continue.

“At the end of the day, the Houthis need to ask themselves how much of their capability they want degraded and disrupted,” Pentagon Press Secretary US Air Force Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder said.

The Biden administration on Wednesday re-listed Yemen’s Houthi movement as a specially designated terrorist organization, backtracking on one of its first foreign policy decisions after coming into office in 2021, borne of aspirations to bring Yemen’s civil war to a negotiated end.