Middle East crisis live: UK and US have launched strikes on more than a dozen Houthi sites in Yemen, say US officials | Middle East and north Africa

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US and UK air strikes on Yemen

The United States and Britain have started carrying out strikes against targets linked to Houthis in Yemen, four US officials have told Reuters.

It’s the first time strikes have been launched against the Iran-backed group since it started targeting international shipping in the Red Sea late last year.

Associated Press is also reporting that US and British militaries have begun bombing sites used by the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen in a massive retaliatory strike.

A Houthi official says ‘enemy’ raids on Sana’a are taking place, according to Reuters. A witness in Yemen’s Sana’a has also told Reuters three explosions have been heard.

Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi militants have stepped up attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea in protest against Israel’s war in Gaza. Various shipping lines have suspended operations, instead taking the longer journey around Africa.

The US military said the Houthis earlier on Thursday had staged their 27th attack on shipping since 19 November, firing an anti-ship ballistic missile into international shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden.

Key events

Associated Press journalists in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a say they heard four explosions early Friday local time but saw no sign of warplanes.

Two residents of Hodieda, Amin Ali Saleh and Hani Ahmed, said they heard five strong explosions. Hodieda lies on the Red Sea and is the largest port city controlled by the Houthis.

The Yemen Data project also posted a short time ago on X about strikes and where they have been reported:

Strikes reported in Hudaydah, Sana’a, Sa’ada and Taiz.

— Yemen Data Project (@YemenData) January 11, 2024

The US and British militaries have been bombing more than a dozen sites used by the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen on Thursday, AP reports.

US officials have told the Associated Press that warship-launched Tomahawk missiles and fighter jets were used. The military targets included logistical hubs, air defense systems and weapons storage locations, they said.

Reuters is reporting that these strikes are believed to be the first the United States has carried out against the Houthis in Yemen since 2016.

Four US officials, speaking to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, say a formal statement is soon expected to detail the strikes.

Earlier on Thursday, the Houthi’s leader said any US attack on the group would not go without a response.

The Houthis, who seized much of Yemen in a civil war, have vowed to attack ships linked to Israel or bound for Israeli ports. However, many of the targeted ships have had no links to Israel. The Houthis say they have been targeting Red Sea shipping routes to show their support for Hamas in the Israel-Gaza war.

The attacks have disrupted international commerce on the key route between Europe and Asia that accounts for about 15% of the world’s shipping traffic.

The US and British militaries have used warship-launched Tomahawk missiles and fighter jets in the strikes, several US officials have told the Associated Press.

The military targets include logistical hubs, air defence systems and weapons storage locations, they said.

Associated Press says the US and Britian have bombed more than a dozen sites used by the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen in what is described as a massive retaliatory strike.

The strikes mark the first US military response against the Houthis after a campaign of drone and missile attacks on commercial ships since the start of the war in Israel.

The coordinated military assault comes just a week after the White House and a host of partner nations issued a final warning to the Houthis to cease the attacks or face potential military action. The officials confirmed the strikes on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations.

An official from Yemen’s Houthis has commented on the bombings on X. Abdul Qader al-Mortada says:

American-Zionist-British aggression against Yemen launches several raids on the capital, Sanaa, Hodeidah governorate, Saada, and Dhamar

Reuters is reporting that the US and British strikes were carried out by aircraft, ships and submarines.

This is a breaking story and more details will come as they develop

US and UK air strikes on Yemen

The United States and Britain have started carrying out strikes against targets linked to Houthis in Yemen, four US officials have told Reuters.

It’s the first time strikes have been launched against the Iran-backed group since it started targeting international shipping in the Red Sea late last year.

Associated Press is also reporting that US and British militaries have begun bombing sites used by the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen in a massive retaliatory strike.

A Houthi official says ‘enemy’ raids on Sana’a are taking place, according to Reuters. A witness in Yemen’s Sana’a has also told Reuters three explosions have been heard.

Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi militants have stepped up attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea in protest against Israel’s war in Gaza. Various shipping lines have suspended operations, instead taking the longer journey around Africa.

The US military said the Houthis earlier on Thursday had staged their 27th attack on shipping since 19 November, firing an anti-ship ballistic missile into international shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden.

Reged Ahmad here picking up the blog from Léonie Chao-Fong

Britain is expected to join the United States in conducting airstrikes on military positions belonging to the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen “within hours”, the Times newspaper in the UK is reporting.

Reuters reports that British prime minister Rishi Sunak’s Downing Street office did not respond to a request for comment, while the Pentagon and the White House each declined to comment on the report.

The US typically does not comment on potential future military operations.

“The Houthis need to stop these attacks … they will bear the consequences for any failure to do so,” White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said on Thursday.

Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi militants have stepped up attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea in protest against Israel’s war in Gaza. Various shipping lines have suspended operations, instead taking the longer journey around Africa.

The US military said the Houthis earlier on Thursday had staged their 27th attack on shipping since 19 November, firing an anti-ship ballistic missile into international shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden.

Summary of the day so far

‘We will not hesitate’: American attack will lead to ‘greater response’, says Houthi leader – video

  • At least 23,469 Palestinians have been killed and 59,604 injured in Israeli strikes on Gaza since 7 October, according to the latest figures by Gaza’s health ministry on Thursday. Israel’s military is killing Palestinians at an average rate of 250 people a day, Oxfam said in a statement on Thursday – a figure significantly higher than any recent major armed conflict including Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Ukraine, Afghanistan and Yemen.

  • Israel has shown “chilling” and “incontrovertible” intent to commit genocide in Gaza, the UN international court of justice in The Hague has heard. South Africa, which has brought the case, alleged “grave violence and genocidal acts” by Israel on the first morning of the two-day hearing, and called on the judges to order an immediate ceasefire. The head of Human Rights Watch (HRW) has praised South Africa for bringing the case to the ICJ, on the same day it released its annual world report warning that human rights across the world are in a parlous state.

World has failed Gaza in ‘livestreamed genocide’, South Africa’s delegation says at ICJ – video

  • Benjamin Netanyahu has accused South Africa of “hypocrisy” and said its case against Israel is evidence of a “world turned upside down”. “Israel is accused of genocide while it is fighting against genocide,” the Israeli prime minister said in a video statement on Thursday. Israel’s foreign ministry attacked the legal hearing into the war in Gaza in The Hague, calling it “one of the greatest shows of hypocrisy in history” and calling South Africa “the legal arm of Hamas”.

  • The British foreign secretary, David Cameron, has urged Israel to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza, writing in the Guardian that it will do nothing for hostages held in the territory or Israel’s war aims if the situation turns into an even greater catastrophe.

  • The families of the two Palestinian journalists killed in an Israeli airstrike in southern Gaza, and their employer Al Jazeera, have rejected claims by the Israeli military that they were “terror operatives”. Hamza Dahdouh and Mustafa Thuria were killed on Sunday while on assignment for Al Jazeera, according to the Qatar-based media network, who accused Israel of the targeted killing of its journalists.

  • Israel’s military has denied it was behind the bombing of an ambulance in the central Gaza Strip on Wednesday which killed four medics and two other people. Four Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) workers were killed when their ambulance was hit by an Israeli strike on the main road near Deir al-Balah, the PRCS said. On the same day, at least 20 people were killed when a strike hit a two-storey building near al-Aqsa hospital in Deir al-Balah, according to the emergency department of the health unit.

  • Hezbollah has said an Israeli strike in southern Lebanon killed two medics and destroyed an ambulance. The Hezbollah-affiliated Islamic Health Committee said “direct Israeli bombardment on an emergency centre in the town of Hanin” killed two male unit members. Hezbollah said it had responding by launching “dozens of rockets” on the Israeli border town of Kiryat Shmona.

  • Leading press freedom groups and human rights organisations have called on Joe Biden to do more to pressure Israel to “abide by international law” amid accusations that its military is targeting journalists in the Gaza war, and to hold it to account for the killings of reporters.

Libby Brooks

Libby Brooks

Nadia El-Nakla, an SNP councillor and the wife of Scotland’s first minister Humza Yousaf, says she is “pleading” with the UK government to let her host her Palestinian brother, as she revealed that her sister-in-law and their four children had escaped from Gaza after an intervention by the Turkish government.

El-Nakla called for a scheme similar to that offered to Ukrainian citizens “so that people aren’t caged into a war with no hope of survival”. She said:

The Ukrainian resettlement programme saved so many lives. Gazans should also have that opportunity, especially those with family in Britain.

She also described her horror at how far down the national news agenda the conflict had slipped over the festive season and described the attack on Gaza as “genocide”. “It’s not even on the radar,” she said.

It’s the first time we’re seeing a textbook genocide in real time and it’s not even on the news.

El-Nakla said: ‘I feel like a second-class citizen in my own country, because I don’t have the right to bring my own brother to stay in my own home.
El-Nakla said: ‘I feel like a second-class citizen in my own country, because I don’t have the right to bring my own brother to stay in my own home. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

El-Nakla, a psychotherapist and a councillor in Dundee, has been outspoken in her calls for a ceasefire and international sanctions against Israel since her parents became trapped on a family visit to the city of Deir al-Balah after the Hamas atrocities of 7 October, when 1,200 people were killed and about 240 taken hostage.

Elizabeth and Maged El-Nakla, who live in Dundee, were permitted to cross into Egypt along with other British nationals after almost a month. But Nadia El-Nakla and her husband have continued to share the brutal detail of the day-to-day impact of the bombardment, with her brother, his family and her elderly grandmother trapped there.

Here are some of the latest images we have received over the newsires from the town of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip.

Damaged vehicles in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia.
Damaged vehicles in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock
People are seen in front of a damaged building in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia.
People are seen in front of a damaged building in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock
People walk past damaged buildings in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia.
People walk past damaged buildings in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock
Damaged buildings in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia.
Damaged buildings in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

Rishi Sunak is facing calls to recall parliament if the UK government is preparing to take military action against Houthi rebels before Monday.

Scotland’s first minister, Humza Yousaf, has called for Westminster to be recalled so that MPs can be “briefed and allowed to debate and scrutinise any decision to pursue military action.”

The UK does not have a good record of military intervention in the Middle East. It is therefore incumbent that Westminster is recalled, MPs briefed and allowed to debate and scrutinise any decision to pursue military action that the UK Government is proposing. https://t.co/JNJBbNsQji

— Humza Yousaf (@HumzaYousaf) January 11, 2024

The SNP’s Westminster leader, Stephen Flynn, also said MPs should be recalled, calling the situation in the Red Sea “complex and serious”.

The Liberal Democrat’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Layla Moran, said it was “vital” for a vote to be held in parliament.

I and @LibDems are very concerned by Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

It’s destabilising for regional security and has a detrimental impact on cost of living in the UK too as ships are diverted.

If the UK plans to take military action, it’s vital there is a vote in Parliament.

— Layla Moran 🔶🕊️ (@LaylaMoran) January 11, 2024

Al Jazeera rejects Israel army claims against Gaza journalists killed in airstrike

The families of the two Palestinian journalists killed in an Israeli airstrike in southern Gaza, and their employer Al Jazeera, have rejected claims by the Israeli military that they were “terror operatives”.

Hamza Dahdouh and Mustafa Thuria were killed on Sunday while on assignment for Al Jazeera, according to the Qatar-based media network, who accused Israel of the targeted killing of its journalists.

Dahdouh was the eldest son of Al Jazeera’s bureau chief in Gaza, Wael Dahdouh, whose wife, two other children and a grandson were killed by a previous Israeli strike in October. A third freelancer, Hazem Rajab, was wounded on Sunday.

On Wednesday, the Israeli army said the two men were “members of Gaza-based terrorist organisations actively involved in attacks against IDF forces”. The Israeli military released what it said was a document discovered by troops in Gaza identifying Dahdouh as a member of the militant group Islamic Jihad. The document could not be independently verified.

The Israeli military also claimed Thuria had served as a deputy commander in Hamas’ Gaza City brigade. Israel did not release any documentation or evidence for that allegation.

In response, Al Jazeera said in a statement:

Al Jazeera Media Network strongly condemns and wholly rejects – and indeed expresses its very considerable surprise at – the Israeli army’s false and misleading attempts to justify the killing of our colleague Hamza Wael Dahdouh and other journalists.

It added:

Hamza Wael Dahdouh was among a group of journalists from various media organisations (also including Mustafa Thuria) covering the IDF’s (Israeli military’s) devastating bombing… He, like so many journalists before him, was killed simply for doing his job.

Hamza’s father Wael rejected the claims as “fabrications”, telling AFP that it was clear that the army are “attempting to defend themselves, justify what is happening and derail the issue.”

Biden to make statement amid expected US, UK strikes against Houthis – report

Joe Biden is expected to make a statement later today in the wake of military strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen, the Times’ Steven Swinford is reporting.

The UK is expected to join the US in conducting overnight airstrikes on military positions belonging to the Houthis, Swinford wrote earlier.

The strikes are expected shortly, he writes, with a series of choreographed statements from the US, UK and other international allies to follow.

BREAKING:

Joe Biden, the US President, is expected to make a statement tonight in the wake of military strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen

The strikes are expected shortly, with a series of carefully choreographed statements from the US, the UK and other international…

— Steven Swinford (@Steven_Swinford) January 11, 2024

Western defence sources have indicated preparations were intensifying on Thursday in response to a Houthi attack of 21 missiles and drones aimed at US and UK warships on Tuesday night.

Patrick Wintour

Patrick Wintour

The UK foreign secretary, David Cameron, has urged Israel to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza, saying it will do nothing for hostages held in the territory or Israel’s war aims if the situation turns into an even greater catastrophe.

Writing for the Guardian, Cameron assembles a mass of practical steps that Israel could implement to save lives and avert the risk of hunger turning into famine, adding:

Death and despair haunt these children’s lives. We know we must act.

The foreign secretary is heavily invested in the issue personally and politically since he has insisted that a full ceasefire is not necessary for the levels of humanitarian aid reaching Gaza to be transformed.

His stance puts him at odds with senior Israeli military officials, such as Col Moshe Tetro, the head of the Israeli army unit responsible for the delivery of humanitarian aid, who said at a briefing on Wednesday: “There is no food shortage in Gaza” and “the reserves in Gaza are sufficient for the near term”.

“The situation is desperate – and projected to get worse,” Cameron writes. “According to the World Food Programme, nine out of every 10 Palestinians in northern Gaza may be having less than one meal a day.” He says the number of aid convoys, which are creeping up towards 200 a day, needs to reach 500.

Read Cameron’s full opinion piece for the Guardian: Israel must act now to let aid through and save lives in Gaza. Britain has a plan to help that happen

US and UK to launch strikes against Houthis tonight – report

The UK is expected to join the US in conducting overnight airstrikes on military positions belonging to the Houthis, according to a report.

Britain’s prime minister, Rishi Sunak, briefed his cabinet on the imminent military intervention this evening, the Times’ Steven Swinford reported.

Britain expected to join US in carrying airstrikes on Houthi military positions in Yemen **tonight**

Rishi Sunak briefed Cabinet on imminent military intervention this evening

Sir Keir Starmer, Labour leader, and Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons Speaker, have also been briefed

— Steven Swinford (@Steven_Swinford) January 11, 2024





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