The United States and Britain carried out a series of air strikes on military locations belonging to Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen early Friday in response to the militant group’s ongoing attacks on vessels traveling through the Red Sea.
Fox News is told there were attacks on more than a dozen Houthi targets by air, surface, and subsurface platforms. The attacks were carried out with support from Australia, the Netherlands, Bahrain, and Canada. A U.S. defense official says the U.K. contributed aircraft.
President Biden said he’d authorized the strikes “in direct response to unprecedented Houthi attacks against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea—including the use of anti-ship ballistic missiles for the first time in history.”
These Houthi attacks, Biden said, have endangered U.S. personnel and its allies and have threatened freedom of navigation.
“These targeted strikes are a clear message that the United States and our partners will not tolerate attacks on our personnel or allow hostile actors to imperil freedom of navigation in one of the world’s most critical commercial routes,” the president said.
“I will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary.”
The strikes came shortly after the White House called a lid on President Biden’s engagements for the evening as he was not expected to discuss the matter publicly. It also follows news that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had not notified the president or other officials of his whereabouts for several days while he was in the ICU at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
A joint statement from the governments of Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Southers Korea, and others said in a joint statement that the strikes “were intended to disrupt and degrade the capabilities the Houthis use to threaten global trade and the lives of international mariners in one of the world’s most critical waterways.”
In anticipation of the attack, Houthi forces transported some weapons and equipment and fortified others, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a U.S. defense official. Local reports indicated Houthi militants were evacuating the Red Sea city of Hodeidah.
The group’s leader, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi vowed in a televised speech earlier Thursday that any U.S. attack on Yemen’s Houthis would not go without a response. He said any such response would be bigger than the recent strike in which its drones and missiles targeted a U.S. ship in the Red Sea.
“Any American attack will not remain without a response. The response will be greater than the attack that was carried out with twenty drones and a number of missiles,” he said.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak briefed his cabinet of ministers late Thursday on the imminent military intervention.
British media also reported that other political figures, including the leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, as well as the speaker of the House of Commons, had been briefed by the government.
White House national security spokesperson John Kirby called on the Houthis earlier Thursday to “stop these attacks,” saying that the terrorist group would “bear the consequences for any failure to do so.”
The joint strike came after Iranian forces seized an oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman early Thursday morning. The seized vessel was in transit to Turkey when the Iranian naval forces boarded and seized the vessel, Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters.
“The key for military action in Yemen is to respond in a way that does not lead to a never-ending tit-for-tat. That has been the administration’s approach in Syria and Iraq, and it has failed,” said Richard Goldberg, a Senior Adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former National Security Council official told Fox News Digital in a statement.
“The president needs to fundamentally change the calculus for Iran and its proxies. Has President Biden ordered the Houthis to be re-listed as a foreign terrorist organization? President Biden ordered the $10 billion for Iran to be frozen? Will any IRGC targets in Yemen, or Iran’s intelligence cargo ship be targeted? These are all relevant questions that help inform what the policy is and whether deterrence will actually be restored.”
Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi militants have stepped up attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea in recent weeks in protest against Israel’s war in Gaza. Various shipping lines have suspended operations, instead taking the longer journey around Africa.
Fourteen countries, including the U.S., issued a joint statement last week saying: “The Houthis will bear the responsibility for the consequences should they continue to threaten lives, the global economy, or the free flow of commerce in the region’s critical waterways.”
The U.S. military said the Houthis earlier on Thursday had staged their 27th attack on shipping since Nov. 19, firing an anti-ship ballistic missile into international shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden.
Earlier this week, U.S. and British naval forces shot down drones and missiles fired by the Houthis toward the southern Red Sea after the Royal Navy warship HMS Diamond was attacked.
The Houthis, who seized much of Yemen in a civil war, have vowed to attack ships linked to Israel or bound for Israeli ports. However, many of the targeted ships have had no links to Israel.