Yemen Will military strikes end Red Sea attacks

Yemen: Will military strikes end Red Sea attacks?

The US-British strikes on Thursday night against rebels in Yemen marked a significant escalation after weeks of attacks by the Iran-backed Houthis on merchant ships in the Red Sea.

• Also read: US-British strikes against Houthis in Yemen

• Also read: Houthi rebels attack: Ship collapses in Red Sea, expert says

What impact and potential consequences will these attacks have on rebels who claim they are attacking ships affiliated with Israel in retaliation for Israeli bombings in the Gaza Strip?

What happened ?

According to US Central Command, more than 100 precision munitions hit 60 targets at 16 locations in an attack using fighter jets and Tomahawk missiles.

Separately, Typhoon fighter jets dropped guided bombs on a drone launch site at Bani and Abs airfield in northwest Yemen, the British Air Force said.

Those attacks left five people dead and six others injured, for a total of 73, the Houthis reported, saying targets were attacked in the capital Sanaa and the governorates of Hodeida, Taez, Hajjah and Saada.

How effective?

Even with precision strikes, it is not easy to cripple a battle-hardened organization that has withstood years of air strikes from the Saudi-led military coalition.

“The Houthis are immune to airstrikes,” Maged Al-Madhaji, co-founder of the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies, told AFP.

“For years they have learned to avoid bombing raids and hide their arsenal by exploiting the territory’s difficult geography.”

“These attacks may therefore destroy some of their military capabilities, but they will not eliminate them and the threat will remain high,” he added.

According to Fabian Hinz of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the effectiveness of the attacks would depend on the quality of intelligence obtained by the United States.

“The Houthis have adapted during the war, they are very good at hiding their equipment. Reconnaissance is therefore very important to know where storage areas, launch sites or senior officers are located,” he added.

According to him, “many of the systems used by the Houthis are quite small and quite mobile, so it is easy to spread them throughout the country.”

However, Fatima Abo Alasrar of the Middle East Institute said the attacks will “significantly impact their military capabilities, particularly those that threaten international sea routes.”

What will happen next?

One fear is that the Houthis will target U.S. interests, including military bases in the Gulf, further escalating the conflict in the Middle East. But Cinzia Bianco, visiting researcher at the European Council on Foreign Relations, believes such a hypothesis is unlikely.

“It would be too great a provocation and they know, as does Iran, that this would inevitably be the start of a much broader international intervention led by the United States in Yemen,” she told AFP.

This is also Mr. Hinz's opinion.

“The risk of regional escalation appears low as major players like Iran want to avoid a regional war. Instead, the Houthis may consider a swarm attack in the Red Sea, an attempt to overwhelm military targets with a multitude of weapons fired simultaneously,” he said.

“Although the effectiveness of the U.S. Navy's defense mechanisms has thwarted all attacks so far, this could prompt the Houthis to consider a more coordinated offensive in the Red Sea or Arabian Sea, involving joint attacks using drones, sea mines, improvised explosive devices and countermeasures includes ship-based missiles,” said Mohammed Albasha of consulting firm Navanti Group.

“It is very likely that the Houthis will continue to attack the ships with their remaining assets. I expect them to take revenge,” said Mr. Hinz.