Houthis attempt three Red Sea attacks in a single day, US says

American forces conduct 13th strike against Iran-backed group in Yemen

A Houthi fighter mans a machine gun during a protest in Sanaa, Yemen. EPA
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US forces thwarted two Houthi attacks on Thursday, Central Command said, while a third attempted strike fell short of its target without causing damage.

Centcom, which heads US military operations in the Middle East, said in a post on X that its forces had shot down an unmanned drone over the Gulf of Aden early in the morning. It did not disclose where the drone was heading.

A few hours later, US forces also identified an “uncrewed surface vehicle” believed to be laden with explosives en route to the Red Sea.

“US forces subsequently struck and destroyed the USV in self-defence, resulting in significant secondary explosions,” Centcom said.

Then, in the afternoon, US forces spotted two anti-ship ballistic missiles that had been launched towards the Liberian-flagged and Bermuda-owned M/V Koi cargo ship in the Red Sea. The missiles landed in the ocean.

“US Central Command’s actions will protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure for US Navy vessels and merchant vessels,” the statement concluded.

The Iran-backed Houthis, who control most of Yemen, have launched attacks on ships transiting through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden to protest Israel's war in Gaza.

These repeated attempts by the Houthis followed a Centcom “self-defence strike” that destroyed 10 unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, that it had deemed an “imminent threat”.

US President Joe Biden said in January that strikes against the Houthis are not deterring the group but that such military actions in Yemen will continue, either unilaterally or with other countries.

Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters: “Our goal is to make sure that we continue to take away capability from the Houthis to do what they've been doing.”

The Biden administration has said that its operations are aimed at defending the economically vital waterway that sees at least 10 per cent of global trade.

US and Houthi clashes timeline

January 11: The US and Britain launch the first air strikes on Houthi military sites across Yemen, pledging to protect the freedom of navigation in the Red Sea. They struck radar systems, air defence systems, and storage and launch sites for attack drones, cruise missiles and other rockets, US Central Command said.

January 13: US forces conduct a strike against a Houthi radar site in Yemen. This strike was conducted by the USS Carney using Tomahawk land attack missiles.

January 16: US forces destroy four Houthi missile launchers in Yemen. The launchers were considered to be an imminent threat to commercial and US military vessels in the area.

January 17: US military forces strike 14 Houthi missiles that had been primed to fire on commercial and US naval shipping in the Red Sea, Centcom said.

January 18: US fighter jets conduct a fifth strike on Houthi targets, this time hitting two anti-ship missiles that were being prepared for launch towards the Red Sea.

January 19: US forces conduct three “self-defence strikes” against Houthi targets.

January 20: US forces carry out air strikes on a Houthi anti-ship missile ready to be used against commercial vessels and US Navy ships in the Gulf of Aden.

January 22: US and Britain strike eight Houthi targets in Yemen.

January 24: Centcom conduct strikes against two Houthi anti-ship missiles that were aimed into the Southern Red Sea and were prepared to launch from Yemen.

January 27: Centcom strikes a Houthi anti-ship missile aimed into the Red Sea.

January 31: Centcom strikes a Houthi surface-to-air missile prepared for launch.

Updated: February 01, 2024, 8:59 PM