The U.S. and U.K. conducted large-scale air and missile strikes on Houthi rebel facilities across Yemen on Monday, according to a joint statement, stepping up operations against the militant group as it vows to continue attacking ships in the Red Sea.
The U.S. and U.K. militaries, with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands, hit eight Houthi targets in Yemen in response to the Houthis’ continued attacks, according to a joint statement from the countries involved. The precision strikes were “intended to disrupt and degrade the capabilities that the Houthis use to threaten global trade and the lives of innocent mariners,” the statement said.
The joint strikes on Monday targeted a Houthi underground storage site and targets connected to the Houthis’ missile and air surveillance capabilities, according to the statement.
“Our aim remains to de-escalate tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea,” the statement said, “but let us reiterate our warning to Houthi leadership: we will not hesitate to defend lives and the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways in the face of continued threats.”
The U.S. military has launched multiple rounds of preemptive strikes against Houthi anti-ship missile sites that were preparing to fire against international shipping over the past week. But those strikes have failed to deter the militants from continuing to attack commercial vessels transiting the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
This is the second time U.S. and U.K. forces have conducted joint air and missile strikes on the Houthis in Yemen since the group began attacking international shipping in November. The two militaries, with support from Australia, the Netherlands, Canada and Bahrain launched strikes for the first time on Jan. 11, after the Houthis ignored weeks of warnings by Washington and its allies to stop the attacks.
Since then, the U.S. has hit Houthi targets a half-dozen times on its own, but those strikes were conducted against what the Pentagon has characterized as an “imminent” threat and were smaller in scale.
President Joe Biden and his top aides have repeatedly said strikes on Houthi targets alone won’t stop the Iran-backed militants from threatening commercial ships in the Middle East.
When asked by a reporter last week if the airstrikes were working, Biden responded “Well, when you say ‘working,’ are they stopping the Houthis? No. Are they going to continue? Yes.”
Administration officials say it could take weeks, maybe months, to apply the necessary military, economic and diplomatic pressure to force the Houthis to change course.
An end to the war between Israel and Hamas, or at least a slowdown in fighting, could weaken the Houthis’ case for endangering global shipping in regional waters.