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Stepped-up US strikes on Yemen aren’t stopping Houthis’ attacks

A RAF Typhoon returns to base after another strike in Yemen.

A RAF Typhoon returns to base after another strike in Yemen. Photo: AAP

The US and Britain have struck more than a dozen Houthi targets in Yemen in response to a recent surge in attacks by the Iran-backed militia group on ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, including a missile strike this week that set fire to a cargo vessel.

American and British fighter jets hit about 18 sites across multiple locations, targeting missiles, launchers, rockets, drones and unmanned surface and underwater vehicles, according to US officials.

This is the fourth time that the US and British militaries have conducted a combined operation against the Houthis since January 12.

But the US has also been carrying out almost daily strikes to take out Houthi targets, including incoming missiles and drones aimed at ships, as well as weapons that were prepared to launch.

The US fighter jets launched from the USS Dwight D Eisenhower aircraft carrier, which is currently in the Red Sea.

President Joe Biden and other senior leaders have repeatedly warned that the US will not tolerate the Houthi attacks against commercial shipping.

Houthis step up attacks

But the counter-attacks have not appeared to diminish the Houthis’ campaign against shipping in the region, which the militants say is over Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The group has launched at least 57 attacks on commercial and military ships in the the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November 19, and the pace has picked up in recent days.

“We’ve certainly seen in the past 48, 72 hours an increase in attacks from the Houthis,” Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said in a briefing.

Singh acknowledged that the Houthis have not been deterred.

“We never said we’ve wiped off the map all of their capabilities,” she told reporters. “We know that the Houthis maintain a large arsenal. They are very capable. They have sophisticated weapons, and that’s because they continue to get them from Iran.”

There have been at least 32 US strikes in Yemen over the past month and a half; a few were conducted with allied involvement. In addition, US warships have taken out dozens of incoming missiles, rockets and drones targeting commercial and other navy vessels.

 Raids bring minimal gains

Earlier on Saturday, the destroyer USS Mason downed an anti-ship ballistic missile launched from Houthi-held areas in Yemen towards the Gulf of Aden, US Central Command said, adding that the missile was probably targeting MV Torm Thor, a US-flagged, owned, and operated chemical and oil tanker.

The US attacks on the Houthis have targeted more than 120 launchers, more than 10 surface-to-air-missiles, 40 storage and support building, 15 drone storage buildings, more than 20 unmanned air, surface and underwater vehicles, several underground storage areas and a few other facilities.

The rebels’ supreme leader, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, announced this past week an “escalation in sea operations” conducted by his forces as part of what they describe as a pressure campaign to end Israel’s war on Hamas.

But while the group says the attacks are aimed at stopping that war, the Houthis’ targets have grown more random, endangering a vital waterway for cargo and energy shipments travelling from Asia and the Middle East onwards to Europe.

-AAP

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