US-UK Strike on Houthi Rebels in Yemen: Quick Overview


The risk of escalation is increasingly real. The United States and the United Kingdom launched an attack in Yemen and hit the capital Sanaa and other cities. The target is the Houthis, the Shiite group supported by Iran. It is a response to attacks on commercial ships transiting the Red Sea, the artery through which 12% of world trade passes. Another front of the endless war in Gaza: in fact the militiamen have defied the warning not to hinder international trade on the Red Sea, a key route between Europe and Asia, in support of the Palestinian cause. Iran has already seized an oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman in retaliation.

What’s happening in Yemen: breaking news live

There is participation from some US and UK allies, including the Netherlands, Australia, Canada and Bahrain, who are expected to provide logistics, intelligence and other support. The attacks, CNN explained, were carried out in particular with fighter planes and Tomahawk missiles. Over a dozen Houthi targets were hit by missiles launched from air, land and sea (with the USS Florida submarine) and were chosen to weaken the Houthis’ ability to attack shipping in the Red Sea.

The reactions

Houthi officials have warned that the US and UK will “pay a heavy price” for this “blatant aggression”. The Houthis “will continue to target Israel-linked ships in the Red Sea,” a rebel spokesperson says. “There is absolutely no justification for this aggression against Yemen, there was no threat to international shipping in the Red and Arabian Seas, and the attacks have hit and will continue to hit Israeli ships or those bound for ports Occupied Palestine”, writes Mohammed Abdulsalam on “X”, the ‘old’ Twitter.

For Hamas, the United States and Great Britain “are responsible for the impact of their attack on regional security.” Tehran has also firmly condemned “the violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yemen”.

What Biden says

US President Joe Biden speaks of “attacks against a series of targets in Yemen used by Houthi rebels to jeopardize freedom of navigation in one of the most vital waterways in the world” in a note, explaining that he will not hesitate “to take further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international trade as necessary.”

“These attacks – underlines Biden – are the direct response to the unprecedented Houthi attacks against international ships in the Red Sea, including the use of anti-ship ballistic missiles for the first time in history. These attacks have endangered US personnel, sailors civilians and our partners, trade and freedom of navigation threatened. More than 50 nations have been affected by 27 attacks on international commercial shipping. Crews from more than 20 countries have been threatened or taken hostage in acts of piracy. More of 2,000 ships have been forced to divert thousands of miles to avoid the Red Sea, which can cause weeks of delays in product shipping times.And on January 9, the Houthis launched their largest attack to date, directly targeting American ships.”

“Defending international maritime transport”

“The international community’s response to these reckless attacks – he continues – has been united and resolute. Last month, the United States launched Operation Prosperity Guardian, a coalition of more than 20 nations committed to defending international shipping and deterring Houthi attacks in the Red Sea. We also joined more than 40 nations in condemning the Houthi threats. Last week, together with 13 allies and partners, we issued an unequivocal warning that the Houthi rebels would suffer consequences if their attacks do not had ceased. And yesterday, the United Nations Security Council approved a resolution calling on the Houthis to end attacks against merchant and commercial shipping.”

“Today’s defensive action follows this extensive diplomatic campaign and increasing attacks by Houthi rebels against commercial shipping. These targeted attacks are a clear message that the United States and our partners will not tolerate attacks on our personnel or allow actors hostile to endanger freedom of navigation in one of the most critical trade routes in the world”, concludes the US president.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that the attacks in these hours were “a limited, necessary and proportionate action in self-defence”. Attacks have been reported not only in the capital Sanaa, but also in the port of Hudaydah on the Red Sea, in Dhamar and in the north-western Houthi stronghold of Saada. In fact, as of early 2024, the Houthis control much of Yemen.

“The safety of British shipping and freedom of navigation through the Red Sea is paramount and that is why we are taking action. As the UN Security Council has made clear, the Houthis must stop attacks in the Red Sea,” comments the British Foreign Secretary David Cameron.

Because the attacks will not easily deter the Houthis

According to Frank Gardner, a BBC journalist expert on security issues, the US and England hope that the night air strikes on Houthi targets will serve to dissuade them from further unprovoked attacks on global shipping: “But it seems unlikely. The Houthis, armed, trained and Provided with intelligence by Iran, they have successfully managed to present themselves as defenders of Hamas and the Palestinians and as adversaries of Israel, which fits well with popular Arab opinion. And it is not a position they will give up lightly. ‘April 2015, the Saudis began their air campaign against the Houthis’ illegal takeover of power in Yemen. They said they were confident that the war would be over by the end of the year – continues Gardner – Almost a decade later, the Houthis are more firmly entrenched than ever. This has strengthened their sense of defiance and invincibility. The United States and its allies will seek to make this campaign short and punchy with minimal loss of life. The Houthis may have other plans,” he concludes.

What changes for Italy

Italy and Europe are wondering how much to get involved in the US-led mission which has been deployed against the drones of Yemeni rebels since last month. The reports tell a difficult reality, in the future and in the present, also for Italy: 40% of Italian maritime trade passes through the Strait of Suez and Bab el-Mandeb. Houthi attacks are driving up costs. If traffic with the East is reduced, delays increase, routes change, even petrol costs much more. In short: inflation.

The consequences in Europe can already be seen, and there will be even more soon. Electric car maker Tesla, for example, said it would suspend production at its factory outside the German capital Berlin due to shipment delays caused by Houthi attacks in the Red Sea. The delays created a “gap in supply chains” that led to the decision to suspend vehicle production – except for some subareas – at the Berlin-Brandenburg Gigafactory between January 29 and February 11, Tesla said in a statement Thursday, shortly before the United States and United Kingdom carried out the airstrikes. The Tesla factory outside Berlin employs about 11,500 people and produces about 250,000 vehicles a year.

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