US launches new strikes on Houthi fighters in Yemen amid continued Middle East unrest

The militant group has been targeting ships in response to the Israel-Hamas war.

ByNathan Luna ABCNews logo
Saturday, February 24, 2024
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WASHINGTON -- A coalition of countries led by the U.S. and U.K. on Saturday carried out a new round of strikes on the Houthis in Yemen "in response to the Houthis' continued attacks against commercial and naval vessels" in and around the Red Sea, officials said.

According to a joint statement from the eight countries involved, the strikes were against 18 targets, including those related to "underground weapons storage facilities, missile storage facilities, one-way attack unmanned aerial systems, air defense systems, radars, and a helicopter."

"These precision strikes are intended to disrupt and degrade the capabilities that the Houthis use to threaten global trade, naval vessels, and the lives of innocent mariners in one of the world's most critical waterways," the joint statement reads.

It continues: "The Houthis' now more than 45 attacks on commercial and naval vessels since mid-November constitute a threat to the global economy, as well as regional security and stability, and demand an international response."

The U.S. has targeted dozens of Houthi locations already this year. Six countries supported the U.S. and U.K. in Saturday's strikes: Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

In his own statement, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said, in part: "We will continue to make clear to the Houthis that they will bear the consequences if they do not stop their illegal attacks, which harm Middle Eastern economies, cause environmental damage, and disrupt the delivery of humanitarian aid to Yemen and other countries."

The Houthis have said their attacks are in response to Israel's bombardment of Gaza while targeting Hamas in retaliation for Hamas' Oct. 7 terror attack, which sparked a war.

The U.S. has publicly stressed that it hopes to prevent that conflict from spilling out into the region and described its own strikes in Yemen as de-escalatory.

Still, the tit-for-tat pattern that has been established has also raised questions about the immediate effectiveness and long-term goals of the U.S. strategy regarding the Houthis.

"We've got to be thoughtful about our approach in these areas, and we can't predict exactly how any one of these groups is going to respond," Gen. CQ Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz in an exclusive interview in January. "And so we've got to make sure we look at the key partner force protection, but also the ability to take away their capability.

"And we don't want to go down a path of greater escalation that drives to a much broader conflict, within the region," Brown said.

He told Raddatz then that the American airstrikes have "had an impact" on the Houthis' ability to continue carrying out missile and drone attacks, though he declined to say by how much.

ABC News' Luis Martinez and Meghan Mistry contributed to this report.