The United States military says its forces launched strikes on 14 Houthi missiles “that were loaded to be fired” from Yemen in the fourth day of direct attacks on the Iran-aligned group in less than a week.
The missiles posed a threat to commercial ships and US Navy vessels in the region, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Wednesday.
The group, which controls most of Yemen and has been attacking ships in the region since November, said it will not stop its strikes on shipping routes despite increasing assaults by the US military.
“We will not give up targeting Israeli ships or ships heading towards ports in occupied Palestine … in support of the Palestinian people,” the group’s spokesperson, Mohammed Abdelsalam, told Al Jazeera on Thursday.
“These missiles on launch rails … could have been fired at any time, prompting U.S. forces to exercise their inherent right and obligation to defend themselves,” CENTCOM said on X.
The strikes are meant to degrade the Houthis’ “capabilities to continue their reckless attacks on international and commercial shipping in the Red Sea, the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, and the Gulf of Aden”, it added.
The Houthi-controlled Saba news agency said the US and the United Kingdom launched the strikes in the provinces of Hodeidah, Taiz, Dhamar, al-Bayda and Saada overnight. However, CENTCOM did not mention any involvement of the UK in the latest attacks.
“It is an open war, and they must endure the earth-shattering, powerful, and crushing strikes and responses, God willing,” Houthi official Ali al-Qahoum wrote on X after the latest strikes.
The US on Wednesday redesignated the Yemeni group as a “terrorist” organisation in response to its continuing attacks and threats to shipping and imposed sanctions on it. The designation does not go into effect for 30 days.
The Houthis said the designation will not affect its operations to prevent Israeli ships or vessels heading to Israel from crossing the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea and the Bab al-Mandeb Strait.
Rights advocates and analysts say the US move may negatively affect Yemeni civilians.
The Houthis, who support the Palestinian armed group Hamas, launched their attacks in response to Israel’s war on Gaza. Their strikes have slowed trade between Asia and Europe and alarmed major world powers.
Earlier on Wednesday, CENTCOM said a drone launched from areas controlled by the Houthi rebels in Yemen struck the US-owned ship Genco Picardy in the Gulf of Aden. It inflicted some damage, but no injuries, it said.
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