The USA and Great Britain have responded to repeated attacks by the Houthi rebels in the Red Sea with military strikes on targets in Yemen. The overnight attacks drew sharp criticism from Iran and Russia as well as angry reactions from the Houthis, allied with Tehran. The development is fueling fears that the numerous tensions and violent clashes in the region could escalate into a larger conflict in the Middle East.
The military strike is a response to the Houthis' "illegal, dangerous and destabilizing" attacks on ships in the Red Sea and is based on the right of self-defense, said a joint statement from the alliance, which, in addition to the USA and Great Britain, includes the Netherlands, Canada, Bahrain and Australia belong. It is also supported by the federal government, as Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said during a visit to Malaysia.
According to Al Massirah television, a Houthi representative threatened retaliation. The rebels also said they would continue their attacks on merchant ships allegedly linked to Israel in the Red Sea. Moscow condemned the strikes by the US and its allies and requested a special session of the UN Security Council in New York today. Iran also criticized the approach and warned of growing insecurity and instability in the region.
Biden: Will not hesitate to order further measures
According to a written statement, US President Joe Biden called the strikes "successful" and said he would not hesitate to order further measures if necessary. Despite warnings, the Houthis carried out attacks in the Red Sea, including against British and American warships. This cannot be tolerated, said British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin described the military strike as a clear signal. "Today's coalition deployment sends a clear message to the Houthis that they will pay a price if they do not stop their illegal attacks."
More than 60 Houthi targets attacked in Yemen
According to the US military, more than 60 targets at 16 Houthi military locations were attacked. These included command and control points, ammunition depots, missile launch facilities, production facilities and air defense radar systems, the US Air Force said in a statement. The strikes were carried out from the air as well as from ships and submarines. Tomahawk cruise missiles were also used. The Ministry of Defense in London said four Eurofighters had carried out attacks on two targets in the northwest of the country.
The aim was to weaken the Houthis, not to escalate the situation, said a government official in Washington. British Secretary of State for Defense James Heappey emphasized that it was a limited, necessary and proportionate response. “We are of course keeping an eye on the need to ensure that it does not trigger a regional escalation,” Heappey told Times Radio.
Houthis announce further attacks on ships in the Red Sea
The Houthis said five of their members were killed in the attacks. Six others were injured. The attacks hit the capital Sanaa as well as the provinces of Hudaida, Tais, Hajjah and Saada. The rebels threatened that the military strike would not “go unanswered and unpunished.”
They had previously announced that they would continue to target ships with alleged Israeli connections in the Red Sea. "There is absolutely no justification for the aggression against Yemen as there was no threat to international shipping in the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea," a Houthi spokesman told Al Massirah television. The target continues to be “Israeli ships or those that call at the ports of occupied Palestine.”
Since the Gaza war broke out between Israel and the Islamist Hamas, the Houthis have repeatedly attacked ships with alleged Israeli connections in the Red Sea. Large shipping companies are increasingly avoiding the route. The Houthis also repeatedly attack Israel directly with drones and rockets.
The impact of the Houthi attacks on the economy is already noticeable
Houthi attacks on merchant ships have already had an impact on the economy. The car manufacturer Tesla announced on Thursday that it would stop production in Grünheide near Berlin for around two weeks due to missing components. Oil prices continued to rise.
Around ten percent of all world trade passes through the Red Sea. The Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean with the Red Sea, providing the shortest sea route between Asia and Europe. The alternative route around the South African Cape of Good Hope extends the transport by several days.