Houthi forces launched a new missile attack on a US-owned vessel on Thursday, after President Joe Biden said American strikes have not deterred the militants’ campaign in the Red Sea.
The Pentagon said no damage or injuries were reported after Houthis fired two missiles at the MV Chem Ranger.
The attack followed a fifth round of US strikes in Yemen earlier on Thursday.
The White House said US forces “took out a range of Houthi missiles” that were to be fired towards the Red Sea.
Speaking after the US strikes, Mr Biden was asked by reporters in Washington DC if the attacks on Houthi targets were working.
“Well, when you say working are they stopping the Houthis? No,” he said.
“Are they gonna continue? Yes.”
US Central Command – which oversees US operations in the Middle East – said in a statement that it had “conducted strikes on two Houthi anti-ship missiles that were aimed into the Southern Red Sea and were prepared to launch” on Thursday.
“US forces identified the missiles in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen” around 15:40 local time (12:40GMT) “and determined they were an imminent threat to merchant vessels and US Navy ships in the region”.
“US forces subsequently struck and destroyed the missiles in self-defense.”
Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh later told reporters at a briefing: “We do not seek war.”
“We are not at war with the Houthis. Actions we are taking are defensive in nature.”
Centcom also confirmed the attempted attack on the MV Chem Ranger. Officials said two anti-ship missiles were fired at the Marshall Island-flagged, US owned ship, but both fell short of the vessel.
Yemen’s military spokesperson earlier released a statement saying that there had been “direct hits” to the ship.
A US-owned vessel was also hit on Wednesday, hours after Washington re-designated the Houthis as a terrorist organisation.
In a fiery speech on Thursday, the leader of the Houthis called it a “great honour” to be “in direct confrontation” with Israel, the US and the UK.
“The aggression against our dear people is a violation, aggression, a direct encroachment of the sovereignty of Yemen and a direct assault on the Yemeni people”, said Abdul Malik al-Houthi.
The Houthis began attacking merchant vessels in November, saying they were responding to Israel’s military operation in Gaza. Since then, the group has launched dozens of attacks on commercial tankers passing through the Red Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
In response, the US and UK launched a wave of air strikes against dozens of Houthi targets on 11 January. The strikes – supported by Australia, Bahrain, the Netherlands and Canada – began after Houthi forces ignored an ultimatum to cease attacks in the region.
By Max Matza
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