US forces destroy Houthi missiles as rebels vow revenge for deadly attack

Joint US and UK air strikes hit several sites across Yemen

Houthi supporters during a protest against the US and Israel, and in solidarity with the Palestinian people, in Sanaa on May 31, 2024.  EPA
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US forces intercepted Houthi missiles in the Red Sea as the Yemeni rebels said they would take revenge for those killed by a joint US and UK air raid in Yemen.

The strikes that killed at least 16 people and injured 40, hit the capital, Sanaa, the port of Hodeidah on the western coast, and Taiz in the south-west of Yemen. The rebels said all those killed and injured were civilians.

On Sunday, the US Central Command said it destroyed one Houthi drone over the southern Red Sea and saw two others crash. It said it also shot down two Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles fired in the direction of the destroyer USS Gravely.

No injuries or damage were reported.

The Iran-backed Houthis said on Saturday there would be grave consequences following the biggest attacks on Yemen since the US and UK started their operations against the rebels.

“The American-British-Zionist aggression that targeted civilian objects and led to the martyrdom and injury of dozens of civilians in several Yemeni governorates will not go unpunished,” a statement from the Houthi political council said.

“Our armed forces are capable of disciplining against any aggression against our country, also in supporting the oppressed Palestinian people in Gaza to stop the war,” said the statement.

On Friday, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the strikes “were taken in self-defence in the face of an continuing threat that the Houthis pose”.

It was the fifth combined British-US operation to attack Houthi positions since January.

Washington, however, has been carrying out almost daily strikes against Houthi targets, including incoming missiles and drones aimed at ships, as well as weapons that were prepared to launch.

Since Israel launched a war on the Gaza Strip last October, the Houthis have been attacking western-linked shipping in the Red Sea in solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza.

During the last week, the rebels said they had targeted at least 12 vessels in three seas in a week, with six attacks taking place on May 28.

The Houthis have launched more than 50 attacks on shipping, seized one vessel and sunk another since November, according to the US Maritime Administration. Shipping through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden has declined because of the threat.

Last month, Houthi rebels said they were bracing for retaliatory action by the UK and the US after rejecting what America called incentives to stop their Red Sea attacks.

Yemeni political sources told The National the incentives included the end of blockades on Sanaa and Hodeidah and speeding up peace talks.

Much like Hezbollah in Lebanon and other armed groups in Syria and Iraq, the Houthis are part of the Axis of Resistance, an anti-western political and military coalition led by Tehran.

The heavily armed militia has bolstered its fighting capabilities since the civil war started in the country in 2014, posing a serious threat to its neighbours.

Up until the end of 2018, the Houthis frequently used ballistic missiles they captured from army depots. But in the past five years, they have shifted to small, long-range, explosive unmanned aircraft that can evade radar.

The Houthis have now reportedly become self-sufficient in developing their weapons and they no longer require significant help from Iran.

Updated: June 02, 2024, 7:11 AM