- US says no intent to escalate tensions
- Britain says attacks hit Houthi ability to attack ships
- Australia, Bahrain, Canada and Netherlands provide support
- Houthis have attacked 27 ships in Red Sea since late December
Washington/Aden: The US and British militaries bombed more than a dozen sites used by Houthis in Yemen on Thursday, in a massive retaliatory strike using warship- and submarine-launched Tomahawk missiles and fighter jets, US officials said.
The US Air Force’s Mideast command said it struck over 60 targets at 16 sites in Yemen, including “command-and-control nodes, munitions depots, launching systems, production facilities and air defense radar systems.”
President Joe Biden said the strikes were meant to demonstrate that the US and its allies “will not tolerate” the militant group’s ceaseless attacks on the Red Sea. And he said they only made the move after attempts at diplomatic negotiations and careful deliberation.
The US and its partners struck more than a dozen targets, including radar installations, storage sites and missile launchers, according to a US official, who asked not to be identified before a formal announcement. The attacks came from fighter jets based on the USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier, as well as Tomahawk missiles launched from submarines and surface ships.
"Today, at my direction, US military forces - together with the United Kingdom and with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands - successfully conducted strikes against a number of targets in Yemen used by Houthi rebels to endanger freedom of navigation in one of the world's most vital waterways," Biden said.
He called the strikes a "direct response" to "unprecedented" attacks by the Houthis, "including the use of anti-ship ballistic missiles for the first time in history."
"These attacks have endangered US personnel, civilian mariners, and our partners, jeopardized trade, and threatened freedom of navigation," he said, stressing that Washington and its allies "will not tolerate attacks on our personnel or allow hostile actors to imperil freedom of navigation."
"I will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary."
In his statement, Biden said that on January 9 they "launched their largest attack to date - directly targeting American ships."
The strikes were "necessary and proportionate", UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement.
Britain's ministry of defense said in a statement that "early indications are that the Houthis' ability to threaten merchant shipping has taken a blow."
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who is in hospital due to surgery complications, said in a statement that the strikes targeted Houthi capabilities including drones, ballistic and cruise missiles, costal radar and air surveillance.
One US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the strikes were being carried out by aircraft, ship and submarine. The official said more than a dozen locations were targeted and the strikes were intended to weaken the Houthis' military capabilities and were not just symbolic.
"The aim of these strikes was very clear from the start and from the President, and it was to remove capability for the Houthis to target maritime vessels, whether they be commercial or military," a different senior U.S. military official said.
Saudi Arabia says concerned about airstrikes
Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry in a statement carried by the official news agency said it was following the news of the airstrikes with “great concern.” Saudi Arabia is closely monitoring the situation with "great concern," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“While the Kingdom emphasises the importance of maintaining the security and stability of the Red Sea region, as the freedom of navigation in it is an international demand due to its impact on the interests of the entire world, it calls for restraint and avoiding escalation in light of the events the region is witnessing,” the ministry said in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency.
** The allies were responding to weeks of attacks on ships in the Red Sea by Houthis, whose drones and anti-ship missiles have disrupted global shipping.
** US President Joe Biden said he “will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary”.
** The strikes were "necessary and proportionate", UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement.
** Britain's ministry of defense said in a statement that "early indications are that the Houthis' ability to threaten merchant shipping has taken a blow."
** A joint statement by the US, Britain, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand and South Korea said the "aim remains to de-escalate tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea".
** Oil prices rose following the airstrikes, reflecting concern about the possibility of a broader conflict and risks to crude flows.
The United States and its allies had issued a series of increasingly stern warnings to the Houthis to stop the shipping attacks, although Washington has been cautious about the risks of further inflaming regional tensions.
Washington set up an international coalition in December - dubbed Operation Prosperity Guardian - to protect maritime traffic in the area, through which 12 percent of world trade flows.
Twelve nations led by the United States then warned the Houthis on January 3 of "consequences" unless they immediately stopped attacks on commercial vessels.
But late Tuesday the Houthis launched what London called the most significant attack yet by the Yemeni rebels, with US and British forces shooting down 18 drones and three missiles. That prompted warnings from Britain, while the UN Security Council also Wednesday urged an immediate halt to the attacks.
27 attacks by Houthis on ships
The final straw for the Western allies appeared to come early Thursday when the US military said the Houthis fired an anti-ship ballistic missile into a shipping lane in the Gulf of Aden.
It was the 27th attack on international shipping in the Red Sea since November 19, the US military said.
The intensifying attacks have caused shipping companies to divert around South Africa's Cape of Good Hope, sparking fears of a shock to the global economy.