U.S. and U.K. carried out strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen in response to attacks on commercial vessels (CNN)
U.S. released new death toll figures from Gaza, said strikes aimed to restore stability in Red Sea (CNN)
Iran accused U.S. and U.K. of declaring war, warned of danger to any aggressors (Newsweek)
Houthis said their attacks aim to pressure Israel over Gaza, will continue (Al Jazeera)
Analysts warn strikes could threaten fragile Yemen ceasefire (Guardian)
Some analysts say the Houthis are trying to gain legitimacy and become synonymous with Yemen through their attacks in the Red Sea. They want to be recognized as Yemen's de facto government even though the official government is based in Aden. Attacks help shore up domestic support and force negotiations.
Saudi Arabia is trying to finalize a peace deal in Yemen and withdraw. They want to recognize Houthi control in the north. The Saudis are anxious that US military action could complicate this effort to normalize relations with Iran and exit Yemen.
The Houthis are an Iran-backed rebel group that has been fighting Yemen’s government for years and now controls much of the northwest part of the country (NYTimes). In recent weeks, the Houthis have launched dozens of attacks on commercial ships sailing through the Red Sea near Yemen using missiles and explosive drones (CNN, AlJazeera). The Houthis say these attacks are aimed at pressuring Israel to end its months-long bombardment of Gaza that has killed thousands (AlJazeera, Guardian). They declared support for Hamas and the Palestinian people after the outbreak of fighting in October (Guardian).
The escalation began in November when the Houthis seized a cargo ship linked to an Israeli businessman (NYTimes). Since then, multiple attacks have targeted vessels perceived to be tied to Israel and its allies (AlJazeera). This led to many shipping companies bypassing the Red Sea trade route, adding significant costs (Guardian). The US formed a naval coalition to protect shipping in December but did not directly engage the Houthis until sinking their boats last month (Guardian).
This week, the UN Security Council strongly condemned the Houthi attacks for disrupting global trade (NYTimes). After the Houthis fired missiles and drones at ships on Tuesday, the US and UK launched retaliatory strikes on rebel targets across Yemen on Thursday and Friday (CNN, Fox News). US officials said the strikes were intended to degrade the Houthis’ offensive capabilities and restore maritime security (CNN). President Biden warned the US will continue responding with force if attacks persist (ABC).
Iran and the Houthis slammed the strikes as an illegal war against Yemen’s people (Newsweek, AlJazeera). The Houthis vowed to retaliate and said their targeting of Israeli interests will continue (AlJazeera). Analysts warn the strikes could destabilize fragile ceasefire efforts between the Houthis and Saudi-led coalition fighting over control of Yemen (Guardian). The Saudis want to recognize Houthi governance in the north and some analysts say the group is trying to force legitimacy as Yemen’s rulers through its Red Sea campaign (Guardian, WSJ).
There are also concerns the US strikes could draw Iran and its regional proxies into expanded conflict since the Houthis are part of Tehran’s “axis of resistance” against Israel and the West (WSJ). However, direct war with the US may not benefit Iran either. The clashes highlight the complex dynamics between the Houthis, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the US vying for leverage in the Middle East.