The US and UK have carried out joint attacks on Houthi military targets in Yemen for the second time.
The strikes targeted a Houthi underground storage site and locations associated with the Houthis’ missile and air surveillance capabilities, a joint statement from the UK, US, Bahrain, Australia, Canada and the Netherlands said.
It added that attacks by the Houthis on “international and commercial vessels” in the Red Sea “constitute an international challenge”.
The Ministry of Defence said four RAF Typhoons, supported by a pair of Voyager tankers, “joined US forces in a deliberate strike against Houthi sites in Yemen”.
It added that Paveway IV precision-guided bombs were used to strike “multiple targets at two military sites in the vicinity of Sanaa airfield”.
The MoD continued: “These locations were being used to enable the continued intolerable attacks against international shipping in the Red Sea.”
It said a “very rigorous analysis” was used to minimise any risk of civilian casualties, which included the decision to attack at night.
The Houthis support Hamas and have been attacking ships they claim are either linked to Israel or heading to Israeli ports. However, several of the group’s attacks have been on vessels from other countries.
Houthi media said the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, was among the targets, along with several other areas.
Jamal Hassan, who lives in south Sanaa, said two strikes landed near his home, setting off car alarms in the street.
Aircraft were heard flying over Sanaa, an Associated Press journalist said.
Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, and US President Joe Biden spoke on the phone earlier today about ongoing attacks against naval and merchant vessels, the White House said.
They also discussed trying to secure the release of hostages still being held by Hamas in Gaza, the US added.
Grant Shapps, the defence secretary, said the latest attacks would “deal another blow” to the Houthis’ “limited stockpiles and ability to threaten global trade”.
The risk has always been mission-creep
This is the second major wave of airstrikes carried out by American and British forces on Houthi targets in Yemen in under a fortnight.
The first was intended as a firm punch on the nose, and although the hope was that it would be enough to stop further attacks on Red Sea shipping, few believed that would be the case.
It wasn’t to be so. The Houthis have continued targeting shipping, albeit it at a lower rate than before.
Joe Biden and Rishi Sunak spoke on the phone on Monday evening, but the readout gave few clues about the imminent action.
The risk has always been mission creep, and the two countries being drawn into something they cannot stop.
The strikes on Monday evening show that London and Washington are committed to the operation, at least in the immediate term, but there are many indications this is precisely what the Houthis want – to drag the West in and show the Arab world they are the ones taking on the big powers.
Neither the US nor the UK has articulated an end game but they are now knee deep in a conflict – the Houthis can, and probably will, continue launching cheap drones at ships, while Britain and America will be compelled to hit back with expensive ordnance.
They might have moral, legal and commercial justification but this new phase of operations will trigger more questions about the overall strategy.
The group had defied a warning to stop.
After the first attacks involving British forces, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said “particular care was taken to minimise any risks to civilians” and “any such risks were mitigated further by the decision to conduct the strikes during the night”.
Tonight’s attacks were also carried out under the cover of darkness.
Yemeni press agency, SABA, reported earlier this month that the first UK/US attacks took place in the capital, Sanaa, and the governorates of Sadah, Hodeidah, Taiz, and Dhamar.
A Houthi official said the initial attacks killed at least five people and wounded six, adding that they would not go “unanswered”.
The US subsequently launched another strike against a Houthi target in Yemen.
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Lord Cameron, the foreign secretary, has said the actions of the Houthis were “effectively terrorist attacks”, adding: “If you don’t act against the Houthis in the Red Sea, you are going to see more attacks.”