An aircraft takes off to join the US-led coalition to launch air strikes against military targets of the Houthis, from an undisclosed location, January 12, 2024 (US Central Command)

US and allies strike Houthi positions across North Yemen


Fri, 12-01-2024 05:53 PM, Aden

Jason Low (South24 center)

The US military launched a series of raids on Houthi rebel positions across Yemen today, with strikes reported in the governorates of Sanaa, Saada, Dhamar, and Hudaydah, in response to the recent escalating attacks by the Yemeni rebel group against commercial ships in the Red Sea.

At 2:30 AM local time on Friday, the US military - in coordination with the United Kingdom and with support from Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, and Bahrain - carried out a series of joint strikes against Houthi targets “to degrade their capability to continue their illegal and reckless attacks on U.S. and international vessels and commercial shipping in the Red Sea”, according to a statement on X, formerly Twitter, by US Central Command. 

The multi-pronged, multinational attack “targeted radar systems, air defense systems, and storage and launch sites for one-way attack unmanned aerial systems, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles” the statement said.

The commander of the US Central Command, General Michael Erik Kurilla, commenting on the strikes against the Iranian-backed militant group, said: “We hold the Houthi militants and their destabilizing Iranian sponsors responsible for the illegal, indiscriminate, and reckless attacks on international shipping”.

More than a dozen sites were hit in the retaliatory strike, using warship- and submarine-launched Tomahawk missiles and fighter jets, according to US officials speaking to AP News. 60 targets were struck at 16 sites, including “command-and-control nodes, munitions depots, launching systems, production facilities, and air defense radar systems” the report said. 

Reports of the attacks began circulating on X in the early hours of Friday morning (Sanaa time), with Yemen-based freelance journalist Ali Al-Sakani posting: “Airstrikes on Houthi positions in Sana’a, Saada, Dhamar and Hudeidah governorates, locals told me.”

Local sources speaking to South24 also reported the beginning of air strikes at 2:40 AM Friday, in Sanaa and Hodeidah in North Yemen, as well as at least three airstrikes in the vicinity of Hodeidah Port. 

Shortly after the raids, Houthi official Abdul Qader al-Mortada posted on X, saying “American-Zionist-British aggression against Yemen launches several raids on the capital, Sanaa, Hudaydah governorate, Saada, and Dhamar". 

Early this morning, the official spokesperson for the Yemeni Armed Forces [Houthis] issued a statement confirming the American-British attacks, accusing the coalition of launching “a brutal aggression against the Republic of Yemen with seventy-three raids targeting the capital, Sanaa, and the governorates of Hodeidah, Taiz, Hajjah, and Saada”, killing five and injuring six members of the armed forces. 

He declared that the American- and British-led military operations “will not go unanswered and unpunished” and “will not dissuade Yemen from its position of support … for the oppression of the Palestinian people”.

Shortly after the raids, the White House issued a press release, with Joe Biden declaring that at his direction, US military forces, together with the United Kingdom and support from key allies, had “successfully conducted strikes against a number of targets in Yemen used by Houthi rebels”. 

Biden described the targeted strikes as “a clear message that the United States and our partners will not tolerate attacks on our personnel or allow hostile actors to imperil freedom of navigation”.

The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) dealt a further blow to the Houthis’ capabilities this afternoon, by issuing sanctions targeting “a Hong Kong-based company and a United Arab Emirates-based company shipping Iranian commodities on behalf of the network of a Quds Force-backed Houthi financial facilitator”, as well as four oil tankers, according to a report by Reuters.

The response from the international community to today’s military strikes has been mixed. 

A joint statement from the governments of Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, United Kingdom, and the United States asserted that today’s strikes were “in accordance with the inherent right of individual and collective self-defense, consistent with the UN Charter”. 

The statement reiterated the coalition’s aim of restoring stability in the Red Sea, while also vowing that they “will not hesitate to defend lives and ensure the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways in the face of continued threats”.

Iran’s foreign ministry slammed the American-British military strikes, with Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Nasser Kanaani branding them a breach of Yemen’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and “against international laws and regulations”, as reported by the ministry’s website

Kanaani accused the US and UK of “trying to distract the attention of the people in the world from [Israel’s] crimes against the Palestinian people”, and warned that the strikes threaten regional and international peace and security.

Russia, a key ally of Iran, strongly condemned the military strikes, labelling them an “irresponsible adventure” and “illegitimate… from the point of view of international law” in a statement by Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, as reported by Reuters. 

China expressed concern over the escalations in the Red Sea and urged the relevant parties to “exercise calm and restraint to prevent the conflict from escalating”, in an official statement from a Beijing Foreign Ministry spokeswoman. 

Saudi Arabia, in a post on their official X page, expressed “great concern” over the military operations in Yemen. 

Egypt similarly voiced their “deep concern about the escalation of military operations in the Red Sea and air strikes on Yemen”, and called for regional and international efforts to reduce tensions in the region, in a post on X. 

The United Arab Emirates also expressed “deep concern about the repercussions of attacks on maritime navigation” and “[stressed] the importance of preserving the security of the region and the interests of its countries and peoples within the frameworks of international laws and norms”, according to the Emirates News Agency. 

Reactions to the military escalation have been strong across Yemen. In Sanaa, tens of thousands took to the streets of several cities “to hear their leaders condemn U.S. and British strikes on their country”, according to a report by Reuters. 

Speaking to the gathered crowds, Houthi Supreme Political Council member Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, described the American strikes as “terrorism”, and declared that “The United States is the Devil.”

He also accused the United States of deception over its claims of self-defense, saying “they are amazing at lying to the people of the world, but the awareness of the Yemeni people is a different awareness.”

In a statement on their official media Friday afternoon, the Houthis declared that “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”, according to reports by Al Jazeera.

The Saudi-backed, internationally recognized government of Yemen issued a press release on Saba News today, stating that it was “following with great concern the military escalation” regarding the strikes on Yemen and the Houthi attacks on international navigation in the Red Sea. 

The government accused the Houthis of “dragging the country into a military confrontation arena for propaganda purposes with misleading claims that have no real connection to supporting the brothers in occupied Palestine”, and of being dependent on Iranian orders “at the expense of the interests of the Yemeni people”.

They also reiterated their steadfast support for the Palestinian cause and demands for an end to Israeli aggression and delivery of aid to the Palestinian people. 

The Iranian-backed Houthis have carried out 27 attacks on commercial shipping lanes in the Red Sea since mid-November, after they claimed they would target any Israel-linked ships in their territorial waters, due to Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza. 

On December 19, the US, UK, and 12 other countries formed the international naval coalition Operation Prosperity Guardian, to protect international shipping in response to the Houthis attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea. 

The coalition had previously issued several warnings to the Houthis against continuing their maritime attacks. However, the Houthis conducted their biggest attack yet on Tuesday night, launching 21 drones and missiles at warships and commercial vessels. 

Jason Low
English Editor at South24 Center for News and Studies

HouthisYemenRed SeaBab AlmandabUSA StrickesIranIsraelNorh Yemen