The U.S. Central Command said it conducted a ‘self-defense’ strike early Sunday against a Houthi anti-ship cruise missile “prepared to launch against ships in the Red Sea.”
In a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, Centcom said U.S. forces had determined that the cruise missile in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen “presented an imminent threat to U.S. Navy ships and merchant vessels in the region.” Centcom said its action ensures freedom of navigation and makes international waters “safer and more secure for U.S. Navy vessels and merchant vessels.”
In a second wave of retaliatory attacks against Iran-backed groups, the United States and Britain struck at least 36 Houthi targets in Yemen on Saturday.
The joint operation focused on weapon launchers, radar sites and drones.
In a statement Saturday, the Pentagon said the U.S. and Britain hit 36 Houthi targets across 13 locations in Yemen using U.S. F/A-18 fighter jets from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier. The USS Gravely and the USS Carney Navy destroyers also fired Tomahawk missiles from the Red Sea, U.S. officials told The Associated Press.
“These precision strikes are intended to disrupt and degrade the capabilities that the Houthis use to threaten global trade, and the lives of innocent mariners, and are in response to a series of illegal, dangerous, and destabilizing Houthi actions since previous coalition strikes on January 11 and 22, 2024, including the January 27 attack which struck and set ablaze the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker M/V Marlin Luanda,” the statement said.
U.S. President Joe Biden was briefed on the attacks before he left Saturday for a campaign trip on the West Coast, an administration official said.
The Houthis made it clear Saturday that they aren’t backing down.
“Military operations against Israel will continue until the crimes of genocide in Gaza are stopped and the siege on its residents is lifted, no matter the sacrifices it costs us,” Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a Houthi official, wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “American-British aggression against Yemen will not go unanswered, and we will meet escalation with escalation.”
The U.S. strikes targeted deeply buried weapons storage facilities, missile systems and launchers, air defense systems, radars and helicopters, the Defense Department said. The British military said it struck a ground control station west of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, that has been used to control Houthi drones that have launched against vessels in the Red Sea.
Hours before the latest joint operation, the U.S. Central Command said it took out six anti-ship cruise missiles that were ready to launch.
The Houthis said there were 14 attacks; 11 targeted the Al-Barah area in the Maqbanah District and areas in the Haifan District, a security source told the Houthi-run Yemeni News Agency (Saba). The other three attacks targeted Jabal Al-Jada’ in Al-Lahiya District and the Al-Salif District in Al-Hudaydah Governorate.
The strikes were the second wave of attacks that began Friday when the U.S. hit more than 85 targets linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and its proxies in Iraq and Syria, in retaliation for last Sunday’s deadly drone attack on an American military base in Jordan.
White House spokesperson John Kirby said three facilities were hit in Iraq and four in Syria.
Biden said the strikes demonstrate to “all those who might seek to do us harm” that “if you harm an American, we will respond.”
According to the U.S. Central Command, the retaliatory strikes reportedly killed nearly 40 people and injured about 23. The operation included long-range B-1 bombers flown from the U.S. that used more than 125 precision munitions, according to U.S. military officials.
A U.S. official said Saturday that an initial battle damage assessment showed the U.S. had struck each of its planned targets.
Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that 23 people were killed in the Syria strikes, all rank-and-file fighters, while Iraqi government spokesperson Bassim al-Awadi said in a statement Saturday the strikes in Iraq near the Syrian border killed 16, including civilians, and there was “significant damage” to homes and private properties.
Iraq, but not Iran, was informed before the strikes, according to U.S. officials.
“This is the start of our response,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said after the strikes. “We do not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else, but the president and I will not tolerate attacks on American forces.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry Nasser Kanaani contended the airstrikes were “violations of the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Syria and Iraq, and they represent “another adventurous and strategic mistake by the United States that will result only in increased tension and instability in the region.”
In an interview with The Associated Press in Baghdad, Hussein al-Mosawi, spokesperson for Harakat al-Nujaba, one of the main Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, condemned the U.S. strikes, though he struck a more conciliatory tone, saying that “we do not wish to escalate or widen regional tensions.”
Mike Johnson, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, was critical of the Biden administration’s weeklong delay in launching a retaliatory attack. “The public handwringing and excessive signaling undercuts our ability to put a decisive end to the barrage of attacks endured over the past few months.”
Senator Jack Reed, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee disagreed. “These strikes, in concert with wise diplomacy, send a clear signal that the United States will continue to take appropriate action to protect our personnel and our interests.”
Russia has requested an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Monday afternoon, Dmitry Polyansky, Russia’s foreign deputy permanent representative to the U.N., said on X.
Source: VOA News. VOA White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin also contributed.