Tuesday, March 5, 2024

US and UK launch airstrikes in Yemen, fear of escalation in the region 

The United States and Britain launched airstrikes in Houthi controlled regions of Yemen. The attack is said to be in response to the Iran aligned group’s attacks on commercial ships linked to Israel in the Red Sea.

According to Al Masirah, a Houthi run satellite news channel, at least five sites, including airfields, had been attacked.

The strikes hit the Al Dailami air base north of the capital, Sanaa, the airport in the strategic port city of Hodeidah, a camp east of Saada, the airport in the city of Taiz and an airport near Hajjah, the report said, as quoted by Reuters.

There are no reports yet of casualties. The exact magnitude of the damage has also not been revealed.

The attack has raised concerns over further escalation in Yemen, which has been going through a standstill period in its longstanding conflict, as the negotiation with Saudi Arabia and UN peace envoy is underway.

Justifying the fear, US President Joe Biden said on Thursday that he would “not hesitate” to commission further attacks if necessary and labelled the Houthi rebellion in the Red Sea as “unprecedented”. 

“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,” Biden added.

British authorities have also hinted at continuing attacks while owning up to their involvement in the overnight military strikes.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the strikes were “necessary and proportionate”.

“Our action and the action of the Americans last night was in self-defence in order to defend against further attacks on our warships as they go about their legal and reasonable business,”  Armed forces minister of the UK, James Heappey, told  Times Radio.

The Houthis, on the other hand, vowed to continue targeting ships heading towards Israel. 

They called the attacks on Yemen “barbaric”. The spokesman, Mohammad Abdulsalam, added that “nothing could justify the US and UK “treacherous aggression”.

After 2016, this is reportedly the first time the US is directly attacking the Yemeni territory.

It is also the first military response by the US, to the drone and missile attacks of Houthi rebels on commercial ships, since Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza began in October.

The Houthi movement which controls a large part of Yemen, represents the Iranian side in the war against a Western-backed and Saudi-led coalition.

While Iran strongly condemned the attacks, Saudi Arabia has called for restraint and “avoiding escalation”.  

Russia has accused the US and UK of violating international law and misusing the UN Security Council resolution that had demanded the Houthis stop their attacks on shipping lanes.

“The attacks will escalate the situation in the region,” Maria Zakharova, Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, said.

At the same time, members of a coalition led by the US, including Britain, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand and South Korea promised their support and assistance in military actions aimed at tackling the trade crisis in the Red Sea caused by Houthi raids.

The Houthis have been targeting commercial ships having trade links with Israel or heading towards Israeli ports, and have been engaging directly with the US Navy in the Red Sea, firing ballistic missiles and deploying armed drones.

They describe their military activities in the Red Sea as resistance against Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza.

Fadl Abu-Talib, a member of the Houthi political bureau, wrote on X that the US and UK’s bombing of Houthi military targets in Yemen will not deter the group.

“We are fully prepared to fight any battle or confrontation,” he added.

Houthis have earlier officially announced their solidarity with Hamas.

The Palestinian resistance group said that the US and the UK will bear responsibility for the consequences of the strikes on the peace and security of the region.

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