60 Houthi targets blitzed in Yemen by British and US forces, Rishi Sunak announces | World | News

January 12, 2024
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Akrotiri military airbase in Greek Cypriot to conduct its mission against the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen

The strikes killed five Houthi fighters and wounded six. (Image: Getty)

British and American forces blitzed more than 60 Houthi targets in a bid to bring back peace in the Red Sea, Rishi Sunak said.

Military chiefs ordered jets, Navy destroyers and an American ­submarine to bomb drone storage units, missile launch sites, airfields, ammunition dumps, production facilities and radar systems.

The strikes killed five Houthi fighters and wounded six.

The PM said they were “self-defence”, adding the aim was to “restore stability in the region” ­following attacks on shipping on the vital trade route.

Hours after the blitz the Houthi rebels vowed revenge and declared the raids “will not go unanswered and unpunished”.

And the attacks appeared to have sparked an immediate Houthi retaliation with another missile fired towards a tanker carrying Russian oil just south of Yemen.

British maritime security firm Ambrey told the BBC the Houthis had mistakenly targeted it after thinking it was linked to the UK, based on out-of-date information.

The missile hit the water about 500 yards away from the ship which was followed by three small craft. There were no injuries or damage.

The Houthis’ Supreme Political Council said: “The Americans and British should not believe they will escape the punishment
of our heroic armed forces. All American-British interests have become legitimate targets for the Yemeni armed forces in response to their aggression.”

The Prime Minister held an ­emergency Cabinet meeting on Thursday evening to tell ministers about the military action.

Four British Typhoons destroyed a site in Bani, in North-West Yemen, which was used by the militia to launch reconnaissance and attack drones, and an airfield in Abbs, another Houthi launch site for drones plus cruise missiles.

Mr Sunak said it appeared the air- strikes were successful as the West tries to end the threat to shipping.

Since November Iran-backed Houthis have attacked more than two dozen ships transiting through the Red Sea claiming its action aims to end Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip. They also seized an Israel-linked cargo ship before it was freed by the US Navy.

The terror has forced vessels to divert around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa. The PM said: “I made the decision with allies to take what I believe to be necessary, proportionate and targeted action against military targets to degrade and disrupt Houthi capability.

“We won’t hesitate to protect lives and ensure the safety of ­commercial shipping. We need to send a strong signal this breach of international law is wrong.

“People can’t act like this with impunity and that’s why with allies we’ve decided to take this action.”

Asked about fears of escalation, the Mr Sunak insisted the aim was to ­“de-escalate tensions”, with allies only striking when calls for the Houthis to desist were ignored. He said: “We have acted in self-defence. It’s incumbent on the Houthis to stop carrying out attacks.”

US President Joe Biden played down fears a wider conflict could break out. He said: “Iran does not want a war with us.”

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The four Typhoons flew from RAF Akrotiri, a major British airbase in Cyprus, and were supported by two Voyager air-to-air refuelling tankers.

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey added: “They flew south, joined up with their US colleagues, and prosecuted two targets in Houthi-controlled Yemen, both of which had been used for the launching of drone and missile attacks.” The Ministry of Defence said numerous buildings were destroyed in the airstrikes.

Mr Heappey said there are no more strikes or military actions “immediately planned” against the Houthi rebels. But he added: “The warning we issued to the Houthis still stands.

“They should not continue to attack Red Sea shipping.”

And Foreign Secretary David Cameron told Houthi militants Britain is willing to strike again if they continue to attack cargo ships.

He said: “We will do what is necessary to protect our ships, to protect maritime freedom of navigation on important maritime pathways.

Since November, the Houthis have attacked more than 20 shipping vessels in the Red Sea.

The group seized what they seized was an Israeli cargo ship in November and have targeted several commercial vessels with drones and ballistic missiles.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations has received a report of a missile attack 90 miles off the coast of Aden, Yemen, on Friday afternoon.

The Royal Navy initiative that provides information on security incidents to shipping operators said the missile landed between 400-500 metres away from the Master ship being followed by three craft.

The ship reported no injuries or damage and was proceeding to the next port of call, as vessels were advised to “transit with caution”.

“What we were doing – warning – was not working. Attacks were increasing, the severity of those attacks was increasing. This action sends a very clear message that if you act in this way, there aren’t just warnings, there are consequences.”

Downing Street said the strikes against the Houthis may not ­immediately make the Red Sea safer but in the “longer term” would have a “positive effect”.

Attacsk on HMS Diamond and US warships are said to have been the final straw. The British Type-45 destroyer shot down a barrage of drones and missiles in “the largest attack on a Royal Navy warship in decades”. It destroyed seven of the 21 Iranian-made weapons.

The other 14 were downed by American fighter jets from the USS Dwight D Eisenhower aircraft ­carrier, which is part of an ­international response to the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

Prior to Tuesday night’s attack on HMS Diamond, 61 drones had been fired in 25 attacks in the Red Sea.

Most were shot down but a December hit on a German-owned ship caused a fire but no injuries.

Military chiefs began discussing airstrikes that month. Britain, the US and 10 other nations gave a last warning on Tuesday. It was ignored.

“The Americans and the British should not believe that they will escape the punishment of our heroic armed forces,” the Houthis’ Supreme Political Council said in a statement on their official media.

“All American-British interests have become legitimate targets for the Yemeni armed forces in response to their direct and declared aggression against the Republic of Yemen.”



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