US Strikes Houthis Again, Biden Balks at Criticism

Conflict continues in Yemen, a day after first round of airstrikes against rebels
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 13, 2024 10:45 AM CST
US Strikes Another Houthi-Led Site
In this photo taken from the bridge of the HMS Diamond, Sea Viper missiles are fired in the Red Sea.   (UK Ministry of Defense via AP)

The US military early Saturday struck another Houthi-controlled site in Yemen that it had determined was putting commercial vessels in the Red Sea at risk, a day after the US and Britain launched multiple airstrikes targeting Houthi rebels. AP journalists in Sanaa, Yemen's capital, heard one loud explosion. US Central Command said the "follow-on action" early Saturday local time against a Houthi radar site was conducted by the Navy destroyer USS Carney using Tomahawk land attack missiles, per the AP. The first day of strikes Friday hit 28 locations and struck more than 60 targets. President Biden had warned Friday that the Iranian-backed Houthis could face further strikes. Biden was asked on Saturday, as he left the White House to spend the weekend at Camp David, about the message sent to Iran from the US strikes against the Houthis.

"We delivered it privately and we're confident we're well prepared," he told reporters. The latest strike came after the US Navy on Friday warned American-flagged vessels to steer clear of areas around Yemen in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden for the next 72 hours after the initial airstrikes. The warning came as Yemen's Houthis vowed retaliation, further raising the prospect of a wider conflict in a region already beset by Israel's war in Gaza. US military and White House officials said they expected the Houthis to try to strike back. The US-led bombardment came in response to a recent campaign of drone and missile attacks on commercial ships in the vital Red Sea. It killed at least five people and wounded six, the Houthis said. The US said the strikes, in two waves, took aim at targets in 28 different locations across Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.

"We will make sure that we respond to the Houthis if they continue this outrageous behavior along with our allies," Biden told reporters Friday. Biden also pushed back against some lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, who said he should have sought congressional authorization before carrying out the strikes. "They're wrong, and I sent up this morning when the strikes occurred exactly what happened," Biden said. The Pentagon said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the military action from the hospital where he's recovering from complications following prostate cancer surgery. Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday's US strikes were largely in low-populated areas, and that the number of those killed wouldn't be high. He said the strikes hit weapons, radar, and targeting sites, including in remote mountain areas.

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It remained unclear how extensive the damage was from Friday's strikes, though the Houthis said at least five sites, including airfields, had been attacked. US Air Forces Central Command said the strikes focused on the Houthis' command and control nodes, munition depots, launching systems, production facilities, and air defense radar systems. The strikes involved more than 150 precision-guided munitions and Tomahawk missiles. The United Kingdom said strikes hit a site in Bani allegedly used by the Houthis to launch drones, as well as an airfield in Abbs used to launch cruise missiles and drones. At an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council late Friday, Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya accused the US, UK, and allies of "blatant armed aggression" against Yemen and warned "if the escalation continues, the entire Middle East could encounter a catastrophe." More here.

(More Houthis stories.)

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