U.S. fighter jets strike Houthi missiles; Houthis attack another U.S. ship

U.S. fighter jets strike Houthi missiles; Houthis attack another U.S. ship

View of the damage caused by a drone attack on Wednesday to the U.S.-owned Marshall Islands-flagged M/V Genco Picardy in the Gulf of Aden. Photo via Indian Navy/UPI

1 of 4 | View of the damage caused by a drone attack on Wednesday to the U.S.-owned Marshall Islands-flagged M/V Genco Picardy in the Gulf of Aden. Photo via Indian Navy/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 18 (UPI) — U.S. fighter jets Thursday afternoon struck Houthi anti-ship missiles that officials said were prepared to launch at commercial vessels transiting the Red Sea. Hours later, the U.S.-designated terrorists attacked another U.S. vessel.

It is the Americans fifth strike on the rebels in a week and at least the third U.S. ship the Iran-backed Houthis have targeted since Monday, raising fears of the United States being dragged further into conflict with Iran-backed proxies that have grown emboldened amid the war between Israel and Hamas.

U.S. Central Command said in a statement on X that the Houthis at about 9 p.m. local time launched two anti-ship missiles at the U.S.-owned and Greek-operated M/V Chem Ranger, a Marshall Islands-flagged tanker, but hit waters nearby.

The ship has since continued on its journey, and there were no reports of injuries or damage to the vessel, CENTCOM said.

The Houthi spokesman Mohammed Al-Bukhaiti confirmed in a statement that they had attacked the ship in the Gulf of Aden with several naval missiles, though he claimed to have achieved “direct hits.”

U.S. and British retaliation were expected, he said.

Hours earlier, the U.S. military hit two Houthi anti-ship missiles ready to be launched toward the Red Sea, CENTCOM said in a separate statement.

The Defense Department said Navy F-18 fighter aircraft were responsible for taking out the missiles, which CENTCOM said in a statement were located in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen at about 3:40 p.m. and were determined to be “an imminent threat to merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships in the region.”

“U.S. forces subsequently struck and destroyed the missiles in self-defense,” CENTCOM reported.

Since the war in Israel began Oct. 7, the Houthis have vowed to attack vessels heading for Israel but have since widened the scope of their targets to include U.S. and British vessels, citing America’s support for Israel and Houthi support of the Palestinians.

The United States has said it does not seek war with the Houthis, but is determined to protect the vessels transiting the important trade route and the freedom of navigation.

The targets CENTCOM selects are those it has said will degrade the Houthis’ ability to attack the ships, while U.S. officials state they do expect retaliation.

When asked about the effectiveness of their strikes, U.S. President Joe Biden said they will continue, but acknowledged they aren’t having a dramatic effect.

“Are they stopping the Houthis? No. Are they going to continue? Yes,” he told reporters before departing the White House for North Carolina.

Late Wednesday, the U.S. military had launched its fourth attack against the Houthis, striking 14 missiles — an attack that came hours after the U.S.owned and operated M/V Genco Picardy was hit with a Houthi missile, resulting in damage.

Genco Shipping told UPI in a statement Monday that the ship was transporting phosphate rock with it was struck at about 8:30 p.m. local time.

Crew were uninjured and an initial inspection found damage to the vessel’s gangway was limited, and that it has “remained stable and underway on a course out of the area,” it said.

Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh elaborated on the president’s comment, and told reporters in a separate press conference that they had never said Houthi attacks would cease immediately amid the U.S. response.

“You’ve seen that we’ve been able to degrade and severely disrupt and destroy a significant number of their capabilities since Thursday,” she said. “But it’s really on them when they decide that they want to stop interrupting commercial shipping, innocent mariners that are transiting the Red Sea.”

She added that they expect the Houthis to retaliate following the first U.S.-British attack on Jan. 11, but that what the Biden administration has so far seen are lower-scale retaliatory attacks.

“Nothing like what we saw the previous Tuesday, where that was the largest barrage that we’ve seen from the Houthis,” she said in reference to the Houthis shooting more than a dozen drones and multiple rockets, which were intercepted by U.S. and British assets in the area.

“Our initial assessments are that we’ve been very successful in that we’ve been able to destroy pretty much all of the targets that we hit,” she said. “So again, that’s one less capability, that’s one less missile that they’re able to use tomorrow.”

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