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US forces strike two Houthi anti-ship missiles in fifth round of bombings

The U.S. military on Thursday conducted its fifth strike on Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, destroying two missile launchers, the Pentagon confirmed.

Using Navy F-18 fighter aircraft, “U.S. 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 command said in a statement.

U.S. forces, who identified the missiles around 3:40 p.m. local time, “determined they were 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,” according to the release.

Since last week, the U.S. has struck Houthi targets in Yemen in five separate rounds to deter the militants from their continued attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea. The Houthi attacks began in mid-November — as fighting in the Israel-Hamas war has embroiled the Middle East — with the aim to end Israel’s air-and-ground offensive in the Gaza Strip.

But the U.S.-led bombings, which began Jan. 11 with American and British warplanes and ships hitting approximately 30 targets in Yemen, have failed to deter the rebels. The Houthis continue to fire drones and missiles at boats, hitting several in the process, including the U.S.-owned bulk carrier Genco Picardy, which was struck in the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday.

President Biden earlier Thursday said U.S. strikes against the Houthis will continue, even as he acknowledged that the bombings have failed to stop the militants’ attacks on ships in the waterway.

And on Wednesday, the Biden administration put the Houthis back on the U.S. list of specially designated global terrorists. The formal designation comes with sanctions meant to cut the Houthis off from financing while still allowing humanitarian aid to flow to the country.

Asked about the Pentagon’s plans for continued strikes, deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters the U.S. military “will continue to respond if we need to.”

“We never said that the Houthis would immediately stop [their attacks]. That is something that they will have to make that decision and that calculation to do,” she said, adding that there was always the expectation the rebels would retaliate in response to the first round of strikes last week.

Singh also said the Houthis “still retain some capabilities” to continue to launch attacks.

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