Sea Viper missiles were fired from the ship HMS Diamond into the Red Sea, in a photo released by the British Ministry of Defense on January 10, 2024. British Ministry of Defense via AP
After challenging the United States in the Red Sea for several weeks, Houthi forces could expect a military response. This was triggered on the night of Thursday January 11th to Friday January 12th. American naval and air forces, supported by the British, attacked a number of targets of Yemeni rebels, Iran's allies in the Middle East. Their intervention marks an increasing regionalization of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which Washington wants to avoid.
The US Air Force command in the region said it hit more than sixty targets at sixteen locations, including radar sites and missile and drone launch sites. Explosions were heard in Sanaa, Taiz and the port of Hodeida. These facilities enabled the Houthis to carry out 27 attacks on merchant vessels in the Red Sea, damaging the interests of some fifty nations and disrupting maritime traffic vital to the global economy.
“The United States and the United Kingdom must prepare to pay a heavy price and bear the severe consequences of this aggression,” Houthi Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Al-Ezzi warned on Friday. According to local authorities, five people were killed and six others were injured in these attacks. The Houthis vowed to continue their attacks against “Israeli ships or those heading to the ports of occupied Palestine,” their spokesman Mohamed Abdel Salam wrote on X.
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The Houthis say they are acting in solidarity with Gaza and seeking an end to the Israeli military operation in the Palestinian enclave. “It is completely baseless and illegitimate,” asserts a senior American official. Most of their maritime targets have no direct connection to the actors in the current war. In its last spectacular operation on January 9th, ships – including one carrying fuel oil – were attacked by eighteen missiles and three drones. The projectiles were destroyed by three American destroyers, fighter aircraft and the British ship HMS Diamond.
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The limited-scale attacks announced on Thursday cannot neutralize the threat posed by the rebels. But they had become inevitable. The first clashes occurred on December 31, 2023 between the Houthis and the American army, which intervened to prevent the attack on a merchant ship off the coast of Hodeida, leaving ten people dead in the Houthi ranks.
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