US, UK strike Houthis in Yemen, push Israel’s Gaza campaign towards regional war

Team India Sentinels Friday 12th of January 2024 02:27 PM

Screenshot from a video clip shows a target in Yemen hit by US-led coalition strike.

New Delhi: The United States and the United Kingdom have carried out strikes from air and sea against Houthi targets inside Yemen in response to the Houthi group’s drone and missile strikes against Israel-linked commercial ships in the Gulf of Aden-Red Sea maritime route. The Houthis have blocked Israel-linked ships from using the Gulf of Aden-Red Sea shipping lanes through the Bab-el-Mandeb chokepoint in response to Israel’s large-scale bombing and ground offensive in the Gaza strip.

As India Sentinels reported earlier, the Indian Navy have stepped up its surveillance and patrolling activities in the northern and central Arabian Sea near the Gulf of Aden after incidents of piracy, hijacking attempts, and targeting of ships by drones and missiles, like in the cases of MV Ruen, MV Lila Norfolk, and MV Chem Pluto.

The US Air Force said “US forces and its allies” have struck more than 60 targets at 16 locations inside Yemen used by the Houthi rebel group Ansar Allah. The Houthis acknowledged that the strikes killed five Yemenis and injured six. However, it didn’t give details on what was targeted.

In a statement released early in the morning India time, the USAF said: “At the direction of US Central Command, US Air Forces Central, Centcom’s Joint & Combined Air Component Command, executed deliberate strikes on over 60 targets at 16 Iranian-backed Houthi militant locations, including command and control nodes, munitions depots, launching systems, production facilities, and air-defence radar systems.”

It further said more than 100 precision-guided munitions of various types, including Tomahawk cruise missiles, were used in the strikes. The strikes were composed of “coalition air and maritime strike and support assets from across the region”, US Navy warplanes, ships, and submarines.

Dangerous escalation

These strikes have dangerously escalated the already-volatile situation in the Middle East following Israel’s disproportionate response to Hamas’s military raid inside Israel, on October 7, 2023. Many of Israel’s adversaries, like Iran and militia groups supported by Tehran barring Hamas, have so far refrained from escalating the conflict into a wider war in the Middle East.

Although the Lebanon-based Hezbollah group has been firing at Israeli positions across the Lebanon-Israel border in the south, it did so in a calibrated way. The Houthi group Ansar Allah kept its actions limited to targeting ships going to or coming from Israeli ports, although it had unsuccessfully fired a ballistic missile in Israel.

However, Thursday’s strike by the US and its allies on Ansar Allah targets inside Lebanon threatens to blow the situation out of control with the entire Middle East getting embroiled in the conflict.

Observers say the next few days will be crucial in determining what path the region takes from here. The Houthis have the kind of missiles in their arsenal that can strike US and coalition naval assets deployed in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Although the Houthis have launched several attacks on ships in the area, all of them were intercepted by the US-led coalition ships deployed in the Operation Prosperity Guardian, launched to protect ships plying in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea following the Houthi threat.

However, it costs the US hundreds of millions of dollars to intercept cheap Houthi drones and missiles launched against ships, making such an operation prohibitively expensive for the US-led coalition.

In a news briefing, on Thursday, a senior US official said, “We had been quite clear about the fact that Iran is a primary, if not the primary, enabler or supporter or sponsor of the Houthis and that Iran has been involved operationally in the conduct of these attacks.”

The official then added, “They have provided information and intelligence to the Houthis. They have provided the Houthis with the very capabilities that they have used to conduct these attacks. We believe that they have certainly been involved in every phase of this.”

After the strikes on Houthis in Yemen, a US official said, “This may or may not be the last word on the topic. When we have more to say, or more to do, you will hear from us.”

All eyes are now on Tehran awaiting its reaction.

Houthis say ‘barbaric’ attack ‘won’t deter’ Ansar Allah

Following the US-led western coalition’s strikes against Ansar Allah targets in Yemen, the Houthi group’s spokesman, Abdulsalam, in a post on X, said the “blatant” American-British aggression was to “protect Israel and to stop Yemen’s operations in support of Gaza”. He then said Ansarallah’s targeting “was and will continue to affect Israeli ships or those heading to the ports of occupied Palestine”.

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a member of Ansar Allah’s supreme political body, called the strikes by the US and the UK “barbaric”, in a post on X. He said the strikes come at a time “when the world is searching for an end to the genocide in Gaza,” and promised that the Houthis will issue a formal statement on the development.

As India Sentinels had reported on December 20, the Houthi supreme leader, Abdel-Malik al-Houthi had warned that his group, Ansar Allah, would strike US warships in the region if they attack Yemen.

Iran, Hezbollah assail strikes

Terming the US-led coalition strike against Houthi targets in Yemen as a “clear violation of Yemen’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”, Iran, on Friday said it will have “no result other than fuelling insecurity and instability in the region”.

According to an Al Arabiya report, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Nasser Kanaani, said, “We strongly condemn the military attacks carried out this morning by the United States and the United Kingdom on several cities in Yemen,” adding, “These attacks are a clear violation of Yemen’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and a breach of international laws.”

Meanwhile, the Iran-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah also condemned the US-led strikes on Yemen.

According to a Jerusalem Post report, Hezbollah released a statement that said: “The American aggression confirms once again that the US is a full partner in the tragedies and massacres committed by the Zionist enemy in Gaza and the region.”

Russia condemns strikes on Yemen

Condemning the US and the UK for carrying out air and missile strikes against the Houthi group Ansar Allah in Yemen, Russia said the act amounted to an irresponsible adventure that risked sowing chaos across the entire Middle East.

Talking to reporters in Moscow, Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said, “We strongly condemn these irresponsible actions by the United States and its allies.” She further said, “A large-scale military escalation in the Red Sea region could strike out the positive trends that have emerged recently in the Yemeni settlement process, as well as provoke a destabilization of the situation throughout the Middle East.”

Russia, which is Iran’s staunch ally and a partner of key Arab powers, like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, called for an urgent meeting of the United Nations security council to discuss the US-led strike in Yemen on Friday.

Editor’s note: India Sentinels publishes, from time to time, world news and op-eds, depending upon their gravity and impact on global security and diplomacy.


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