update deskMiddle East

US hits 14 ready-to-launch Houthi missiles amid Red Sea attacks

The attack took place after the Biden administration announced plans to re-designate the Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen as a terrorist organization.

The “USS Carney” guided-missile destroyer defeats a combination of Houthi missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles in the Red Sea on Oct. 19, 2023. Credit: U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aaron Lau.
The “USS Carney” guided-missile destroyer defeats a combination of Houthi missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles in the Red Sea on Oct. 19, 2023. Credit: U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aaron Lau.

The United States on Wednesday struck over a dozen Houthi missiles on their launch rails, in the fourth attack in recent days on the Iranian terror proxy in Yemen.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said that its forces conducted strikes on 14 missiles that were loaded to be fired in Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen just before midnight local time. According to CENTCOM, the missiles were on launch rails and presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships traversing the Red Sea and surrounding waterways.

“The actions by the Iranian-backed Houthi terrorists continue to endanger international mariners and disrupt the commercial shipping lanes in the Southern Red Sea and adjacent waterways,” said Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla, CENTCOM commander. “We will continue to take actions to protect the lives of innocent mariners and we will always protect our people.”

The strikes took place after earlier on Wednesday, the Biden administration announced plans to re-designate the Houthis as a terrorist organization following its repeated attacks on Red Sea shipping, which have wreaked havoc on international trade.

That designation of the Iran-backed group will take effect 30 days from the announcement in order to allow for “humanitarian carve-outs” intended to ensure that the sanctions do not harm the Yemeni population, said U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

“Over the past months, Yemen-based Houthi militants have engaged in unprecedented attacks against United States military forces and international maritime vessels operating in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden,” Sullivan stated. “These attacks fit the textbook definition of terrorism.”

Former president Donald Trump applied both designations to the Houthis at the end of his term in 2021. The Biden Administration removed those designations nearly one month later, over the objection of some U.S. partners in the region, including the United Arab Emirates, that had been subject to Houthi ballistic missile attacks.

In December, the United States announced the launch of a multinational force to counter the maritime threat posed by the Houthis. Last week, American and British naval and air forces launched a wave of strikes on Houthi positions in Yemen, hitting over 60 targets.

However, the Houthis continue to attack, including on Wednesday when a one-way attack drone struck the Marshall Islands-flagged, American-owned and -operated M/V Genco Picardy in the Gulf of Aden.

The United States is also warning Iran for its support for the Houthis. The U.S. military said on Tuesday that Navy SEALs found Iranian missile parts bound for Yemen in a search of a small boat off the coast of Somalia. Two Navy SEALs went overboard during last week’s operation and are still missing.

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