US exchanges strikes with Yemen’s Houthis

Washington allegedly prevented an “imminent“ strike against a US aircraft, as the rebels attacked yet another “American vessel“

The US military and Yemen’s Houthi rebels have made dueling claims of successful strikes in their ongoing battle over Red Sea shipping lanes.

The latest salvos included a US airstrike targeting a Houthi missile in Yemen that was allegedly prepared to launch. The Houthis later claimed an “accurate and direct” missile strike against a cargo ship in the Red Sea.

The US Central Command (CENTCOM) said the surface-to-air missile was struck and destroyed on Wednesday afternoon in a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen. American forces targeted a Houthi launch site after determining that the missile “presented an imminent threat to US aircraft,” CENTCOM said. The command didn’t specify the missile’s location. The Houthis reportedly confirmed the US strike and said it was in the northern Yemen city of Saada.

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Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree said “several appropriate naval missiles” were deployed in striking the ‘KOI’ merchant vessel. He identified the ship as “American” and said it was heading to Israel. The Liberian-flagged container ship is registered to London-based Oceonix Services Ltd., which reportedly has ties to a unit of US banking giant JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Saree said the merchant ship was targeted a few hours after the Houthis launched missiles against the USS Gravely destroyer in the Red Sea. CENTCOM previously said that the USS Gravely had shot down a cruise missile over the Red Sea on Tuesday night.

The latest strikes come amid an escalating conflict between US forces in the Middle East and various militant groups in the region. The Houthis and and other militias have reportedly carried out hundreds of attacks against US military assets and shipping interests since the Israel-Hamas war began in October.

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The Houthis “will confront the American-British escalation with escalation and will not hesitate to carry out comprehensive and effective military operations in retaliation to any British-American foolishness against beloved Yemen,” Saree said. All US and UK ships in the Red and Arabian Seas are “legitimate targets,” he added, and the Houthis will continue to fight in solidarity with “the oppressed Palestinian people.”

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday that the “Iranian-backed” Islamic Resistance in Iraq was responsible for a drone strike that killed three US troops and wounded more than 40 on Sunday. He said a multi-faceted US response is being prepared, but he reiterated a claim that President Joe Biden’s administration seeks to avoid a wider war with Iran.

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