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US and UK launch new strikes on Yemen’s Houthis amid Gaza war

Iran says continuing American and British attacks 'contradict' attempts to prevent wider regional war
An RAF Typhoon FGR4 aircraft preparing to take off to strike targets in Yemen, picture released by the UK Ministry of Defence 3 February 2024 shows (AFP)

The US and UK launched further strikes on Yemen's Houthis overnight, hitting dozens of targets across the impoverished country.

US Central Command said late on Saturday that, among the targets, it had destroyed an anti-ship cruise missile in Yemen that was prepared to launch against ships in the Red Sea.

"US forces identified the cruise missile in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and determined it presented an imminent threat to US Navy ships and merchant vessels in the region," it said in a statement.

The strikes hit "36 Houthi targets across 13 locations", the countries that provided support for the operation said in a statement.

The Houthis, officially named Ansar Allah, say they are attacking what they consider to be Israeli-linked ships in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza since the war there started on 7 October.

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"These attacks will not deter us from our moral, religious and humanitarian stance in support of the steadfast Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, and will not go unanswered and punished," they said in a statement on Sunday.

The latest US strikes on Yemen came shortly after the US struck a number of targets in Syria and Iraq in what it  said was an attempt to counter Iran-backed groups responsible for attacking American personnel and interests in the region.

Iran on Sunday warned that the strikes across the region appeared to "contradict" the stated desire by the leaders of the US and UK that the fighting in Gaza not expand into a regional war.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, Nasser Kanani, said in a statement that the attacks were "in clear contradiction with the repeated claims of Washington and London that they do not want the expansion of war and conflict in the region".

He said the two countries were "fuelling chaos, disorder, insecurity and instability" by supporting Israel in its war in Gaza, which has so far left at least 27,365 people dead, according to the health ministry in Gaza.

'Axis of resistance'

The war in Gaza has thrust the Houthis into the international spotlight. They have pulled ahead of Iran's other "axis of resistance groups", including Lebanon's Hezbollah or Iraqi militias, by striking at the heart of global trade and commerce.

The Houthis, once a militia based in the northern Saada region, in 2014 swooped down from Yemen's northwestern mountains and seized Yemen's capital, Sanaa.

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Saudi Arabia and a coalition of Arab states intervened in Yemen’s civil war against the Houthis, in a bid to restore the internationally recognised government.

The coalition launched thousands of air strikes on Yemen, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and a major humanitarian crisis, but they failed to dislodge the group, which now controls about 80 percent of Yemen's population.

While the Houthis launched drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for years, their campaign against international shipping in professed solidarity with Palestine has galvanised the Arab world behind them, giving them unprecedented recognition and support, even among their detractors.

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