Update 2143ET: In the overnight and early morning hours (local), the Pentagon has announced another round of strikes against Houthi launch positions, reportedly as the militants were preparing more attacks on Red Sea shipping:
The U.S. has launched a new retaliatory strike against Houthi targets in Yemen amid the group’s continued attacks on international ships in the area, officials said Wednesday.
Five areas were targeted in the U.S. strikes on Yemen: the governorates of Hodeidah, Taiz, Dhamar, Bayda and Saada, according to the Houthi state media, the Sanaa-Saba press agency.
US Central Command detailed of the fresh attack, which marks at least the third or fourth round of such an assault, as follows:
In the context of ongoing multi-national efforts to protect freedom of navigation and prevent attacks on U.S. and partner maritime traffic in the Red Sea, on Jan. 17 at approximately 6 p.m. (EST), U.S. Central Command forces conducted strikes on 14 Iran-backed Houthi missiles that were loaded to be fired in Houthi controlled areas in Yemen.
These missiles on launch rails presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships in the region and could have been fired at any time, prompting U.S. forces to exercise their inherent right and obligation to defend themselves. These strikes, along with other actions we have taken, will degrade the Houthi’s capabilities to continue their reckless attacks on international and commercial shipping in the Red Sea, the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, and the Gulf of Aden.
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On Wednesday, just as the Biden administration has redesignated Yemen’s Houthis (or Ansar Allah movement) a global terrorist organization, the group has again launched an attack on a commercial vessel in the Red Sea, which suffered a direct hit.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) issued a new alert describing an incident 60 nautical miles southeast of Yemen’s Aden. The report indicates that “vessel has been hit on the port side by an uncrewed aerial system.”
This marks a handful of serious attack incidents in the vital waterway since the weekend, also following the US conducting a third round of missile strikes on Houthi launch sites on Tuesday, but which were smaller than the prior waves of attacks.
A spokesman for the Yemeni group has specifically responded to Washington’s terror designation, telling Reuters that the “attacks on ships in the Red Sea heading to Israel will continue despite the designation.”
The Wednesday announcement from the White House reverses a 2021 decision wherein the Iran-linked group was delisted, as part of efforts to achieve peace between the rebels and Saudi-UAE coalition, which have been waging a brutal war since 2015.
According to details of the Wednesday terror designation:
Officials said the “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” (SDGT) designation, which targets the group with harsh sanctions, was aimed at cutting off funding and weapons the Houthis have used to attack or hijack ships in vital Red Sea shipping lanes, as a response to Israel’s war on Gaza.
“These attacks fit the textbook definition of terrorism,” said one of three administration officials who briefed reporters ahead of the announcement, on condition of anonymity.
The White House’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the designation, which comes into effect in 30 days, could be reevaluated if the Houthis stop their attacks in the Red Sea.
There are now close to 50 vessels worldwide which broadcast AIS messages stating that they have nothing to do with Israel (some; even USA), including one which won’t even pass through the Red Sea area at all as it is heading to Malaysia from the Atlantic Ocean. pic.twitter.com/xeSy8BOdfu
— TankerTrackers.com, Inc. (@TankerTrackers) January 17, 2024
With Gaza’s civilian death tolls till soaring, the Iranians are likely to also remain undeterred in funding and assisting the Houthis. In the meantime, US coalition airstrikes on Yemen are likely to continue – and simultaneously Houthi drone and missile launches will persist.
Maritime monitoring source Tanker Trackers has observed that vessels have increasingly opted for an interesting security measure: “There are now close to 50 vessels worldwide which broadcast AIS messages stating that they have nothing to do with Israel (some; even USA), including one which won’t even pass through the Red Sea area at all as it is heading to Malaysia from the Atlantic Ocean.”
Wed, 01/17/2024 – 21:43