U.S. strikes at Houthi munitions

Missile sites near Red Sea deemed to be ‘imminent threat’

Houthi fighters and tribesmen stage a rally against the U.S. and the U.K. strikes on Houthi-run military sites near Sanaa, Yemen, on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024. (AP Photo)
Houthi fighters and tribesmen stage a rally against the U.S. and the U.K. strikes on Houthi-run military sites near Sanaa, Yemen, on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024. (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON --The U.S. military fired another wave of ship- and submarine-launch missile strikes against Houthi-controlled sites Wednesday, U.S. Central Command said, marking the fourth time in days it has directly targeted the group in Yemen as violence that ignited in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war continues to spill over in the Middle East.

The strikes were launched from the Red Sea and hit 14 missiles that the command deemed an "imminent threat." The strikes followed an official announcement Wednesday that the U.S. has put the Houthis back on its list of specially designated global terrorists. The sanctions that come with the formal designation are meant to sever violent extremist groups from their sources of financing.

"Forces conducted strikes on 14 Iran-backed Houthi missiles that were loaded to be fired in Houthi controlled areas in Yemen," Central Command said in a statement posted on X late Wednesday. "These missiles on launch rails presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships in the region and could have been fired at any time, prompting U.S. forces to exercise their inherent right and obligation to defend themselves."

On Wednesday, Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said the U.S. would continue to take military action to prevent further attacks.

"They are exploiting this situation to conduct attacks against the ships and vessels from more than 50 countries ... around the world. And so we're going to continue to work with our partners in the region to prevent those attacks or deter those attacks in the future," Ryder said.

TARGETED SANCTIONS

As the sanctions against the Houthis were announced, Biden administration officials said they would design the financial penalties on the Houthis to minimize harm to Yemen's 32 million people, who are among the world's poorest and hungriest after years of war between the Iran-backed Houthis and a Saudi-led coalition.

But aid officials expressed concern. The decision would only add "another level of uncertainty and threat for Yemenis still caught in one of the world's largest humanitarian crises," Oxfam America associate director Scott Paul said.

The sanctions that come with the formal designation are meant to sever violent extremist groups from their sources of financing.

President Donald Trump's administration designated the Houthis as global terrorists and a foreign terrorist organization in one of his last acts in office. President Joe Biden reversed course early on, at the time citing the humanitarian threat that the sanctions posed to ordinary Yemenis.

Military strikes by the U.S. and Britain against Houthi targets in Yemen have failed to stop weeks of drone, rocket and missile strikes by Houthi forces on commercial shipping transiting the Red Sea route, which borders Yemen.

The Houthis are one in a network of Iran- and Hamas-allied militant groups around the Middle East that have escalated attacks on Israel, the U.S. and others since Israel's military offensive in Gaza, in response to Hamas' Oct. 7 attacks in Israel.

Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdul-Salam said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that the militant group considered its new terrorist designation by the U.S. to be "a badge of honor for Yemen for its support of Palestinian resistance in Gaza."

Critics say the additional broad U.S. sanctions may have little effect on the Houthis, a defiant and relatively isolated group with few known assets in the U.S. to be threatened. There is also concern that designating the Houthis as terrorists may complicate international attempts to broker a peace deal in the now-subsided war with Saudi Arabia.

War and chronic misgovernment have left 24 million Yemenis at risk of hunger and disease, and roughly 14 million are in acute need of humanitarian assistance, the United Nations says. Aid groups during the height of Yemen's war issued repeated warnings that millions of Yemenis were on the brink of famine.

U.S. officials said the sanctions would exempt commercial shipments of food, medicine, fuel and humanitarian assistance into Yemeni ports. The U.S. will wait 30 days to put the sanctions into effect, officials said, giving shipping companies, banks, insurers and others time to prepare.

The administration, for now, is not reimposing the more severe designation of foreign terrorist organization on the Houthis. That would have barred Americans, along with people and organizations subject to U.S. jurisdiction, from providing "material support" to the Houthis.

Information for this article was contributed by Tara Copp, Lolita C. Baldor, Ellen Knickmeyer, Matthew Lee, Aamer Madhani and Lorne Cook of The Associated Press.

  photo  The bulk carrier Gibraltar Eagle is seen off Kristiansand, Norway, June 29, 2023. Houthi rebels fired a missile striking the U.S.-owned ship Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, just off the coast of Yemen in the Gulf of Aden, less than a day after they launched an anti-ship cruise missile toward an American destroyer in the Red Sea. (AP Photo)
 
 
  photo  In this image provided by the UK Ministry of Defence taken on Thursday Jan. 11, 2024 shows an RAF Typhoon aircraft taking off from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, for a mission to strike targets in Yemen. The U.S. and British militaries bombed more than a dozen sites used by the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen late on Thursday, in a massive retaliatory strike using warship- and submarine-launched Tomahawk missiles and fighter jets, U.S. officials said. (Sgt Lee Goddard, UK Ministry of Defence via AP)
 
 
  photo  This undated photograph released by the U.S. military's Central Command shows what it is described as Iranian-made missile components bound for Yemen's Houthi seized off a vessel in the Arabian Sea. U.S. Navy SEALs seized Iranian-made missile parts and other weaponry from a ship bound for Yemen's Houthi rebels in a raid that saw two of its commandos go missing, the U.S. military said Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. (U.S. Central Command via AP)
 
 
  photo  Houthi fighters and tribesmen stage a rally against the U.S. and the U.K. strikes on Houthi-run military sites near Sanaa, Yemen, on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024. (AP Photo)
 
 
  photo  In this photo provided by the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, taken from the bridge of HMS Diamond, Sea Viper missiles are fired in the Red Sea. U.S. and British militaries are bombing more than a dozen sites used by the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen, in a massive retaliatory strike using warship-launched Tomahawk missiles.(UK Ministry of Defence via AP)
 
 

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