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The US has bombed Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen for the second day in a row, further fuelling concerns that the conflict in the region could escalate.
US Central Command described the attack on a radar facility as “a follow-on” from joint US-led strikes to degrade Houthi rebels’ ability to disrupt commercial traffic in the Red Sea. The destroyer USS Carney used Tomahawk cruise missiles in the strike, which took place at 3:45am January 13 local time. In their first assault a day earlier, the US and UK, backed by other allies, struck more than 60 Houthi targets at 30 locations.
Houthi militants have attempted to attack and harass vessels transiting the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden 28 times since 19 November, including by using anti-ship ballistic missiles, drones and cruise missiles, according to Centcom. Nearly 15 per cent of global seaborne trade passes through the Red Sea, including 8 per cent of global grain trade, 12 per cent of seaborne-traded oil and 8 per cent of the world’s liquefied natural gas trade.
The US and UK began targeted strikes on the Houthis on Thursday after the group ignored a final warning from 14 countries last week.
The Houthis, who control northern Yemen, have become one of the most active Iranian-backed militant groups since war between Israel and Hamas broke out on October 7.
American officials have said the US still hopes to de-escalate the situation. “We’re not interested in a war with Yemen,” US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Friday before the latest attack. “We’re not interested in a conflict of any kind here. In fact, everything the president has been doing has been trying to prevent any escalation of conflict, including the strikes last night.”
The Islamist group said on Friday that the US and UK bombing raids had killed five of their fighters and wounded six others. The attacks triggered huge pro-Palestinian rallies in Yemen’s capital city Sana’a, according to footage shown by Houthi channel Al Masirah TV, with protesters carrying Yemeni and Palestinian flags.
The Yemeni rebels have insisted that they are targeting Israeli-owned vessels in support of the Palestinians in Gaza and vowed not to back down despite the western air strikes. American officials reject any connection to Israel’s war with Hamas and say that the Houthis have targeted many vessels which have no connection to Israel.