The United States targeted an anti-ship missile in Houthi-controlled Yemen that was poised for launch early Saturday. This action came hours after the Iran-backed rebels ignited a fire on a British tanker in the Gulf of Aden using a comparable munition. U.S. Central Command said the missile was destroyed in self-defense as the USS Carney patrolled the Bab el-Mandeb strait, which connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
The U.S. and Britain launched joint strikes aimed at reducing the Houthis’ ability to target vessels transiting the key Red Sea trade route — attacks that have been occurring for more than a year and are designed to sabotage global commerce. In their first strike since the escalation, allied warships and aircraft attacked more than a dozen sites in the region. U.S. officials say the strikes included logistical hubs, air defense systems, weapons storage, and launching locations.
Central Command’s statement on the latest attack said initial analysis indicated the missile was a Chinese-designed YJ-12 anti-ship cruise missile, of a type the Houthis and Iran have used to threaten and attack international merchant ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. It says images released by the military analyzed by A.P. showed components that matched those on missiles previously seized.
A spokesperson for Trafigura, which operates the MV Marlin Luanda, confirmed that the vessel was hit in the gulf and said crew members are trying to contain a fire in one of its tanks. The spokesperson also said no injuries were reported, and the ship continues its journey to Singapore.
The Pentagon has been bombing the Houthis in retaliation for their attacks on commercial shipping, and several ships have been sunk or seized. The heaviest attack was last October when the Houthis sank three tankers in the Red Sea after they were targeted by Israeli warplanes in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, where Israel is at war with Hamas. The United Nations Security Council has called on the Houthis to cease their attacks and warned that further escalation could have dire consequences for civilians.
On Tuesday, the White House national security adviser Jake Sullivancalled the situation in Yemen an “all hands on deck” problem that requires an all-out effort by the United States and its allies to minimize the impact on global trade. He warned the Houthis that addressing the attacks would require a sustained and focused response. The United States and Britain have vowed to continue hitting missile sites and other logistical facilities. They say they will also continue to pressure Iran to stop supplying the Houthis with weapons, including an anti-ship cruise missile that can be adapted to strike a U.S. Navy carrier in the Gulf of Aden. The Iranian government has dismissed the warnings as propaganda aimed at “inciting war and igniting a regional conflict.” Iran denies it is arming the Houthis.