US conducts 6th strike against Houthis, Biden says no result yet. Top 10 Updates

US conducts 6th strike against Houthis, Biden says no result yet. Top 10 Updates

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  • January 20, 2024
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The Houthi rebels, supported by Iran, claim their actions in the Red Sea corridor are in response to Israel’s offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The Gaza conflict, now in its fourth month, stands as one of the deadliest and most destructive military campaigns in recent history.

According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, almost 25,000 Palestinians have lost their lives, with over half a million people in Gaza—25 percent of the population—facing starvation, as reported by the United Nations. In Israel, the October 7 attack by Hamas, which initiated the war, resulted in approximately 1,200 casualties. During the attack, more than 250 individuals were taken hostage by militants, with over 100 hostages believed to be currently held captive in Gaza.

We take a look at the top 10 updates from the Red Sea situation and the Houthi rebels.

1. US conducts sixth strike against Houthis in Yemen: In the sixth consecutive strike on January 19, US fighter jets targeted Houthi rebel sites in Yemen, focusing on anti-ship missile launchers ready for action, a US official told AP. The F/A-18 aircraft from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier successfully carried out the strikes, it added. Houthi-run satellite news channel Al-Masirah reported air raids in the western port city of Hodeida on January 19, specifically targeting the al-Jabaana neighbourhood. However, the exact location of the US strikes remains unconfirmed.

2. Joe Biden admits strikes not deterring Houthis, but will continue: President Joe Biden acknowledged on Thursday that previous bombardments of Houthi sites, including the massive array of strikes by US and British forces last Friday, have not yet halted attacks on vessels in the Red Sea, causing disruptions to global shipping.

3. Preemptive missions to continue, says White House: National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby, highlighted the increase in pre-emptive missions. He added that the US military has conducted its fourth pre-emptive action in the past week against Houthi missile launchers, poised to launch anti-ship missiles. Kirby said that these self-defence strikes aim to enhance security in the shipping lanes.

4. US puts Houthis back on designated global terrorists list: The Biden administration has reclassified the Houthis as specially designated global terrorists. The formal designation includes sanctions aimed at cutting off financial support to violent extremist groups. Simultaneously, essential humanitarian aid will continue to reach needy Yemenis. The White House has affirmed that retaliatory strikes will persist.

5. US, UK exploring ways to ‘step up’ campaign against Houthis: The US and the UK are exploring ways to enhance their efforts against Houthi militants in Yemen without sparking a wider war, as per a Bloomberg report. The focus is on disrupting Iranian resupplies and carrying out more assertive pre-emptive strikes, according to sources. The risk lies in the potential for more assertive actions to lead the US into direct conflict with Iran, potentially causing the regional conflagration President Joe Biden aims to avoid.

6. US reshuffles warships in the Mediterranean anticipating longer engagement in the region: In a strategic move, the US Navy is reorganising its warship deployment in the Middle East to maintain control in the region, AP reported. The focus is on the longer term, with growing concerns that Israel’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza could escalate into a wider regional confrontation. The USS Bataan, an amphibious warship equipped with armoured vehicles and military hardware, is at the forefront of the United States’ task force in the eastern Mediterranean. It follows the USS Gerald Ford, the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, which returned home at the start of the New Year. Leading the mission alongside the Bataan are two support ships, the USS Mesa Verde and USS Carter Hall, together forming a combined force of nearly 2,500 Marines and sailors.

7. Houthis gain political boost after US strikes: The Houthi rebels, who have controlled Yemen’s capital since 2014, have gained political clout in the country, AP reported. Any direct military clash with the US strengthens the Houthis’ position in Yemen’s complex political landscape and elevates their standing within the “Axis of Resistance,” comprising Iran and supported militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, it added. Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, is currently in a deadlock, with the Houthi rebels facing off against groups aligned with a Saudi-led coalition. The escalating tension with the U.S. enables the Houthis to sidestep both regional and global attempts to establish a lasting ceasefire and potential peace agreement in Yemen. The U.S. has a convoluted history in Yemen, involving its relationship with the late 33-year president, a prolonged drone-strike campaign against suspected al-Qaida members, and ongoing efforts to mediate an end to the war amid the looming threat of famine in the country.

8. Houthi missiles damage trade more than ships: Houthi attacks on ships in the southern Red Sea are disrupting global trade, but the damage to the vessels has been relatively light, with no significant harm reported, as per a Bloomberg report. Data from Ambrey Analytics indicates that since mid-November, at least 16 ships faced direct strikes, but all managed to continue their voyages independently. Mark O’Neil, CEO of Columbia Group, a leading ship-management company, stated that there have been no reports of significant damage or crew injuries, suggesting a careful approach by the Houthis. While these attacks led to some global shipping avoiding the waterway, the limited damage reveals why some owners still choose to send their vessels through.

9. Yemini TikTok ‘pirate’ goes viral for video selfies: Nineteen-year-old Rashed Al-Haddad, a self-proclaimed “pirate” from Yemen, has gained widespread attention on social media for his video selfies, including one where he holds Yemen’s flag aboard the Galaxy Leader, a commercial container ship reportedly seized by the Houthis in the Red Sea, Reuters reported. In a video captioned “The king of the pirates has arrived in the Red Sea. Free Palestine,” Al-Haddad showcased himself on the container ship, garnering 36,500 views. Comments, such as @MaryMorrisey’s “Got a love, a rockstar pirate,” accompanied the post. From Yemen, Al-Haddad spoke to Reuters, downplaying comparisons to a Hollywood actor. Seated on a living room couch and wearing a military-style belt, he emphasized the importance of focusing on the Palestinian cause.

10. Houthis say they do not seek to expand Red Sea attacks: Houthi rebels in Yemen have clarified their intentions, stating that they have no plans to extend attacks on shipping in the Red Sea beyond blockading Israel and retaliating against the United States and Britain for air strikes, as per a Reuters report. In an interview with Reuters, Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam, also the chief negotiator in peace talks for Yemen’s civil war, emphasized that there are no intentions to target Saudi Arabia and the UAE. He explained, “We do not want the escalation to expand. This is not our demand. We imposed rules of engagement in which not a single drop of blood was shed or major material losses.” He said that their actions were aimed at pressuring Israel and not any other country.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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Published: 20 Jan 2024, 10:35 AM IST

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