US hits Houthi anti-ship missile launchers in Yemen

Latest strike follows attack on American merchant ship

Mock drones and missiles on display at a square in Sanaa, Yemen. EPA
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest news on Israel-Gaza

US forces destroyed four Houthi missile launchers in Yemen early on Tuesday, a US defence official has confirmed.

The launchers were considered to be an imminent threat to “commercial and US forces’ vessels in the area”, the official told The National.

The strike was considered successful, the official added, confirming an earlier report by Reuters.

The US military's Central Command said on social-media platform X that US forces struck and destroyed four anti-ship ballistic missiles that were ready to launch from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.

The US strike came a day after Houthi forces hit the US-owned and operated dry bulk carrier Gibraltar Eagle with an anti-ship ballistic missile.

Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping have continued even after the US and Britain last week launched an initial wave of strikes to degrade Houthi capabilities.

The Houthis, who are backed by Iran and control much of northern and central Yemen, including the capital Sanaa, had vowed to retaliate after the attacks and appear to not have been deterred in their campaign.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby addressed Tuesday's strikes in an online briefing, saying Washington believed the Houthi missiles "were prepped and ready to be launched from Yemen".

"We're not looking for a war, we're not looking to expand this," Mr Kirby said.

"The Houthis have a choice to make and they still have time to make the right choice, which is to stop these reckless attacks."

The Houthis say their attacks are aimed at Israeli-linked vessels as a response to the war in Gaza.

Yemen's Houthis earlier claimed a “direct hit” on a Greek-owned commercial vessel heading to Israel through the Red Sea.

The Houthis “carried out a targeted operation against the ship … after its crew refused the calls from the naval forces, as well as repeated fiery warning messages”, militia spokesman Yahya Saree said.

The Maltese-flagged, Greek-owned bulk carrier MT Zografia sustained material damage after it was hit near the Yemeni Red Sea port of Saleef, a security firm and two sources within the Greek Shipping Ministry said.

No one was injured.

Container vessels have been pausing or diverting from the Red Sea that leads to the Suez Canal, the fastest freight route from Asia to Europe.

Many ships have been forced to take the longer route around the Cape of Good Hope instead.

Ellie Sennett contributed to this report.

Updated: January 16, 2024, 8:14 PM