The reaction was to be expected. According to several American media outlets, on the night of Thursday to Friday, the United States and the United Kingdom carried out attacks on the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who had increased their attacks on ships in the Red Sea in recent weeks. Here's what you need to know about an operation described by Joe Biden as a “success” that nevertheless represents an escalation in a region already on the brink of conflagration with the war between Hamas and Israel. Saudi Arabia immediately expressed concern and called for “restraint.”
What goals were targeted?
The attacks involved fighter jets and Tomahawk missiles. They targeted radars and drone and missile infrastructure to “reduce the Houthi rebels' ability to attack merchant ships in the Red Sea,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Thursday. “American aggression with British participation” hit several Yemeni cities, including the capital Sanaa and Hodeida, Saada and Taiz, targeting airports and military bases, Houthi television channel Al-Massirah said.
Which countries took part?
The attacks were carried out by the United States and the United Kingdom with “support” from Australia, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands,” the coalition statement said. The text is also signed by Denmark, Germany, New Zealand and South Korea, but not by France, which is nevertheless participating in operations in the Red Sea, notably with the Languedoc frigate.
What did Washington and London say?
Joe Biden spoke of a “defensive operation” justified “by the individual and collective right to self-defense” while respecting “the Charter of the United Nations.” The US president warned that he would “not hesitate” to “order further measures” if necessary to protect America and international trade. According to the Pentagon, the aim was to “impair the Houthis' ability to endanger sailors and disrupt international trade on one of the world's most important sea passages.” These were “limited, necessary and proportionate” strikes, added British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
How did the Houthis react?
“Our country is facing a massive attack by American and British ships, submarines and aircraft,” Houthi deputy foreign minister Hussein Al-Ezzi was quoted as saying by rebel media. “The United States and Britain must prepare to pay a heavy price and bear the severe consequences of this aggression,” he threatened.
How did Saudi Arabia react?
The kingdom is “following with great concern military operations in the Red Sea and air strikes on a number of locations” in Yemen, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement, calling for “restraint and avoidance of attacks.”
20 seconds of context
Since the Oct. 7 war began between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the Houthis, who are close to Iran and control much of Yemen, have stepped up attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea and have reportedly targeted vessels linked to Israel Connect in solidarity with the Palestinians.
In response, the United States deployed warships to the region and in December formed an international coalition to protect maritime traffic on the shipping route, which carries 12% of global trade.
Joe Biden spoke of “27 attacks” that affected “more than 50 nations” and that “forced more than 2,000 boats” to change course to avoid the area. Last week, Washington issued a “clear warning” to the rebels, and on Wednesday the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling on them to stop their attacks.