US destroys Houthis missile launchers in another round of strikes in Yemen, officials say

The latest strikes mark the 4th time the US has struck the Iran-backed rebel group in less than a week

ByHaley Britzky and Oren Liebermann, CNN, CNNWire
Thursday, January 18, 2024
US destroys Houthis missile launchers
The US targeted 14 Houthi missile launchers used to attack international shipping lanes, CENTCOM said in a statement Wednesday night.

The U.S. carried out another round of strikes against the Houthis in Yemen, according to three U.S. officials and U.S. Central Command, marking the fourth time the U.S. has struck the Iran-backed rebel group in less than a week.

The U.S. targeted 14 Houthi missile launchers used to attack international shipping lanes, CENTCOM said in a statement Wednesday night. Tomahawk missiles were launched from U.S. Navy surface vessels and the USS Florida, a guided missile submarine, two of the U.S. officials said.

The missiles were "loaded to be fired in Houthi controlled areas in Yemen" and posed an "imminent threat" to commercial vessels and U.S. Navy ships, according to CENTCOM. The missiles could have been launched "at any time," and the U.S. took action under the "inherent right and obligation to defend" U.S. assets, it said.

"We will continue to take actions to protect the lives of innocent mariners and we will always protect our people," said Gen. Michael "Erik" Kurilla, commander of U.S. Central Command.

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The U.S. strikes are the latest in a series of actions against the Houthis, following significant U.S.-led strikes last week with the U.K., and support from a handful of other allies. They come amid heightened tensions in the Middle East and fears that the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza could further spill out into the region.

Hours earlier, the Houthis struck a U.S.-owned and operated vessel for the second time this week. The Iran-backed rebel group used a one-way attack drone to target the M/V Genco Picardy in the Gulf of Aden, according to U.S. Central Command. No one was injured on board the commercial vessel, Central Command said in a statement. The ship suffered some damage but was able to continue on its way.

On Monday, the Houthis struck another U.S.-owned and operated vessel with an anti-ship ballistic missile in what appeared to be the first such successful attack against a U.S. asset since the group being attacking international shipping lanes in mid-November.

The U.S. has been seeking to avoid major escalation in the region as fears rise over the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza spilling out into the region. And despite the Houthis saying the attacks are in protest of Israel's military campaign in Gaza - as well as U.S. and coalition forces coming under regular attacks in Iraq and Syria, and Israel and Hezbollah fighting over the Israel-Lebanon border - the Pentagon insisted Wednesday that the Israel-Hamas conflict has not spread.

"Clearly there are tensions in the Middle East. There have been tensions there since the Israel-Hamas conflict has kicked off ... But to answer your question, no, we currently assess that the fight between Israel and Hamas continues to remain contained in Gaza," Pentagon spokesman Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said at a press briefing.

The new strikes also come the same day the U.S. re-designated the Houthis as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) entity.

"These attacks are clear example of terrorism and a violation of international law and a major threat to lives, global commerce, and they jeopardize the delivery of humanitarian assistance," a U.S. senior administration official told reporters on Tuesday.

While the U.S. said last week that the strikes would degrade the capability of the Houthis to continue carrying out attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea, the Houthis have continued to do so. A U.S. official told CNN previously that in total, last week's strikes destroyed roughly a third of the Houthis' overall offensive capabilities.

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Officials have since said that they expect some level of retaliation by the Houthis. Indeed, on Monday in what appeared to be the first time a U.S.-owned and operated ship was hit by the Houthis, a cargo ship - the M/V Gibraltar Eagle - was struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile.

And on Tuesday, the Houthis launched an anti-ship ballistic missile into the international shipping lanes of the Southern Red Sea - just hours after the U.S. targeted four anti-ship missiles in more strikes.

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