US and UK forces attacked multiple sites used by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen late on Thursday, in response to Houthi attacks on commercial shipping and US and UK warships in the Red Sea.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a statement announcing that the joint military operation aimed to impede and weaken the capabilities of the Houthis. The attacks specifically targeted the Houthis’ unmanned aerial vehicles, uncrewed surface vessels, land-attack cruise missiles, coastal radar, and air surveillance capabilities.
US officials quoted by the Associated Press spoke of a massive retaliatory strike using warship-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles and fighter aircraft. The Houthi targets included logistical hubs, air defence systems and arms depots, they said.
This is the first US military strike against the Houthis in Yemen since the group began firing drones and missiles at cargo ships in the Red Sea in November.
Four RAF Typhoons also took part in the operation departing from their base in Akrotiri, Cyprus last night at approximately 1930 local time. They were equipped with Paveway IV 500 lbs guided bombs. The round trip, spanning thousands of miles, necessitated refuelling from an accompanying RAF Voyager tanker.
At approximately 23:30 local time, the Typhoons successfully reached their targets in Yemen. According to the UK Ministry of Defence, the Typhoons hit two separate locations that were being used by the Houthis to launch drones and missiles.
The four Typhoons returned to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus around 0330 local time this morning after an 8-hour mission. Neither of the two Royal Navy warships that are currently in the Red Sea was directly involved in the strikes. These warships, the air defence destroyer HMS Diamond and the frigate HMS Lancaster, do not carry or fire land attack cruise missiles unlike the US warships in the region that did take part in the strikes.
Former head of the British Army Lord Dannatt told the BBC that it’s a “delicate calculation” whether taking military action against the Houthis is going to run the risk of escalation in the region.
Lord Dannatt went on to say that Iran “has got its hand all over this” in its backing for not only the Houthis but Hezbollah and Hamas, both considered terrorist groups by the US and UK.
Since November, Houthi forces have been engaging in aggressive actions against ships in the Red Sea, carrying out over 100 drone and missile attacks on vessels traversing the crucial shipping lane. This rebel group, supported by Iran, holds significant control over Yemen and has previously stated that their assaults target ships associated with Israel, as a response to the conflict in Gaza.