Middle East crisis live: UK and US struck Houthi sites in Yemen and ‘will not hesitate’ to take further measures, says Biden | Middle East and north Africa

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Dan Sabbagh

Dan Sabbagh

The US and Britain launched air and missile strikes in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, aimed at halting attacks on ships in the Red Sea, Washington and London have announced.

Joe Biden, the US president, said American and British forces, with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands were involved in the overnight attack, which appeared to target a dozen sites in the country.

In a statement, Biden said: “These strikes are in direct response to unprecedented Houthi attacks against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea – 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, jeopardised trade, and threatened freedom of navigation.”

Biden also said he would be willing to authorise further attacks on Yemen if Houthi attacks on shipping did not stop. “I will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary,” he said.

Houthi forces claimed to have instantly retaliated against western warships, but a senior US military official said late on Thursday night no Houthi response had so far materialised.

Key events

Houthi spokesperson says group will continue to target ships

Yemen’s Houthis spokesperson said on Friday there was no justification for the US-Britain attack on Yemen, according to the Reuters news agency.

Mohammed Abdulsalam has posted on X that the group will continue targeting ships heading towards Israel.

The United States and Britain launched strikes from the air and sea against Houthi military targets in Yemen in response to the group’s attacks on ships in the Red Sea.

The US air force says it struck “over 60 targets at 16 Iranian-backed Houthi militant locations, including command and control nodes, munitions depots, launching systems, production facilities, and air defense radar systems.”

In a statement on their website, the air force goes into more detail:

Over 100 precision-guided munitions of various types were used in the strikes. These strikes were comprised of coalition air and maritime strike and support assets from across the region, including U.S. Naval Forces Central Command aircraft and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles launched from surface and sub-surface platforms.

Houthi Deputy Foreign Minister issues warning to US and UK

There has been some more reaction coming out of Yemen. Friday’s strikes targeted an airbase, airports and a military camp, according to the Houthi rebels’ Al-Masirah TV station, Agence France-Presse reports.

AFP correspondents and witnesses also reported they could hear bombardments.

According to official Houthi media, the Houthi Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Al-Ezzi said:

Our country was subjected to a massive aggressive attack by American and British ships, submarines and warplanes …

America and Britain will have to prepare to pay a heavy price and bear all the dire consequences of this blatant aggression

Unverified images on social media, some of them purportedly of Al-Dailami airbase north of Sana’a, showed explosions lighting up the sky as loud bangs and the roar of planes sounded, AFP reports.

The US central command have also posted on X about the Yemen airstrikes. They say:

This multinational action targeted radar systems, air defense systems, and storage and launch sites for one way attack unmanned aerial systems, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles.

Centcom also highlights that the action was separate to Operation Prosperity Guardian, a naval coalition operating in the Red Sea:

These strikes have no association with and are separate from Operation Prosperity Guardian, a defensive coalition of over 20 countries operating in the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandeb Strait, and Gulf of Aden.

Gen Michael Erik Kurilla, the USCentcom Commander says of the Houthis:

Their illegal and dangerous actions will not be tolerated, and they will be held accountable.

On Jan. 11 at 2:30 a.m. (Sanaa time), U.S. Central Command forces, in coordination with the United Kingdom, and support from Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, and Bahrain conducted joint strikes on Houthi targets to degrade their capability to continue their illegal and… pic.twitter.com/bR8biMolSx

— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) January 12, 2024

The US central command have now released images of their operation against military targets in Yemen:

A missile is launched from a warship during the operation
A missile is launched from a warship during the operation. Photograph: Us Central Command/X/Reuters
An aircraft takes off to join the US-led coalition from an undisclosed location
An aircraft takes off to join the US-led coalition from an undisclosed location. Photograph: Us Central Command/X/Reuters
Another aircraft takes off from an undisclosed location
Another aircraft takes off from an undisclosed location. Photograph: Us Central Command/X/Reuters

There are very few images coming out of Yemen so far. But here is one we’ve received. It shows a fire in Sana’a, but it’s not confirmed if this is as a result of the US and UK joint airstrikes.

A fire is seen Sana’a in Yemen.
A fire is seen Sana’a in Yemen. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock
Dan Sabbagh

Dan Sabbagh

The US and Britain launched air and missile strikes in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, aimed at halting attacks on ships in the Red Sea, Washington and London have announced.

Joe Biden, the US president, said American and British forces, with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands were involved in the overnight attack, which appeared to target a dozen sites in the country.

In a statement, Biden said: “These strikes are in direct response to unprecedented Houthi attacks against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea – 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, jeopardised trade, and threatened freedom of navigation.”

Biden also said he would be willing to authorise further attacks on Yemen if Houthi attacks on shipping did not stop. “I will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary,” he said.

Houthi forces claimed to have instantly retaliated against western warships, but a senior US military official said late on Thursday night no Houthi response had so far materialised.

Welcome and opening summary

Hello and welcome to our latest blog on the Middle East crisis. It’s currently 7:21am in Sana’a and 6:21am in Gaza and Tel Aviv. I’m Reged Ahmad and I’ll be with you for the next while.

The United States and Britain have carried out strikes against targets linked to Houthis in Yemen. 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.

More on that in a moment but first, here’s a summary of the latest events so far:

  • An official from Yemen’s Houthis has reacted to the bombings on X. Abdul Qader al-Mortada said: American-Zionist-British aggression against Yemen launches several raids on the capital, Sanaa, Hodeidah governorate, Saada, and Dhamar

  • The US and British militaries have used warship-launched Tomahawk missiles and fighter jets in the strikes, several US officials told the Associated Press. The military targets include logistical hubs, air defence systems and weapons storage locations.

  • US president Joe Biden has released a statement on the strikes – where he highlights the countries involved in the military action – including Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands. Biden said: These targeted strikes are a clear message that the United States and our partners will not tolerate attacks on our personnel or allow hostile actors to imperil freedom of navigation in one of the world’s most critical commercial routes. I will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary.

  • Britian’s prime minister Rishi Sunak has also released a statement on the military action, describing it as “limited, necessary and proportionate action in self-defence” and saying that the Netherlands, Canada and Bahrain offered “non-operational support”.

  • The UK’s Ministry of Defence said in a statement that “particular care was taken to minimise any risks to civilians” and that “early indications are that the Houthis’ ability to threaten merchant shipping has taken a blow”

  • Ten countries were involved in the strikes, according to a joint statement released by the White House from the government’s of Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, United Kingdom, and the United States saying they will “not hesitate to defend lives and protect the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways”.

  • Saudi Arabia says it is monitoring situation with “great concern”. The kingdom’s foreign ministry has told Reuters news agency it is calling for restraint and “avoiding escalation” in light of the airstrikes launched by the United States and Britain.

  • US defence secretary Lloyd Austin says the US is prepared to take “follow-on” action to protect US forces, Reuters reports. Austin is in hospital due to surgery complications.

  • Some Democrats have reacted to the military strikes saying that the president should be coming to Congress first before taking action , US representative Ro Khanna from California says “The President needs to come to Congress before launching a strike against the Houthis in Yemen and involving us in another Middle East conflict.

  • But US Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnel was in support of the action, although he said it was “overdue”

  • Australia has commented on its part on the strikes in Yemen. Defence minister Richard Marles says that Australia provided personnel support to the US and UK in their strikes.





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