President Joe Biden conceded Thursday that strikes against the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen are not deterring the groups’ attacks in the Red Sea, as the military carried out further strikes against the group in Yemen.
The fifth US attack on Houthi assets in a week targeted a small number of anti-ship missiles that were being prepared to launch against international shipping lanes, the official said.
“US Central Command forces conducted strikes on two Houthi anti-ship missiles that were aimed into the Southern Red Sea and were prepared to launch,” the US military said in a Thursday afternoon statement, confirming the most recent strikes.
“US forces identified the missiles in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen at approximately 3:40 p.m. (Sanaa time) and determined they were an imminent threat to merchant vessels and US Navy ships in the region. US forces subsequently struck and destroyed the missiles in self-defense,” the statement continued.
Biden said that strikes on the Houthis will continue – even if they aren’t stopping the group from carrying out attacks.
Asked at the White House whether the strikes are working, the president responded: “When you say working are they stopping the Houthis? No.”
“Are they going to continue? Yes,” he added.
Iranian-backed Houthis fired two anti-ship ballistic missiles at another US-owned commercial ship – the M/V Chem Ranger, a Marshall Islands-flagged, US-owned, Greek-operated tanker ship – at approximately 1 p.m. ET Thursday, according to US Central Command. It marked at least the third US-owned ship targeted by the rebel group this week.
CENTCOM said there were no reported injuries or damages and the ship continued on its way.
The US strikes on Thursday are the latest in a series of actions against the Houthis, following significant US-led strikes last week with the UK, and support from a handful of other allies. They come amid heightened tensions in the Middle East and fears that the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza could further spill out into the region.
CNN has asked the Pentagon for comment on the latest strikes.
The ongoing pace of US strikes in Yemen underscores a willingness by the Biden administration to use force against the Houthis, something the White House had avoided doing for weeks over concerns of sparking a regional escalation. But as Houthi missile and drone launches against commercial vessels continued, including successful attacks on two US-owned and operated ships this week, the US actions against the Houthis have become a more regular occurrence.
The initial US-led attacks, backed by an international coalition, struck radar sites and command and control nodes, as well as the weapons the Houthis have used against international shipping lanes in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
One day later, the US targeted an additional Houthi radar site in a unilateral operation.
Then on Tuesday, the US struck four anti-ship ballistic missiles, describing the actions as self-defense operations because of the imminent threat to US commercial vessels and US Navy ships.
On Wednesday, the US carried out another set of strikes on 14 Houthi anti-ship missiles, using Tomahawk missiles launched from US Navy surface vessels and a guided missile submarine.
“We will continue to take actions to protect the lives of innocent mariners and we will always protect our people,” said Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, the commander of US Central Command, said in a Wednesday statement.
But the US strikes have done little to deter the Houthis, who have kept firing missiles and drones at ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, some of the world’s most critical waterways for commercial shipping.
On Monday, the Houthis hit the M/V Gibraltar Eagle, a US-owned and operated bulk carrier, with an anti-ship ballistic missile in the Gulf of Aden. The vessel suffered minor damage and continued on its way. But it appeared to the first time the Houthis have successful struck a US vessel.
Two days later, the Houthis hit another US-owned and operated vessel, the M/V Genco Picardy, in the Gulf of Aden with a one-way attack drone. This ship also suffered minor damage and continued on its way.
This story has been updated with additional information.
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