“The United States military has executed another series of missile strikes against Houthi-controlled sites, marking the fourth instance within a week of directly targeting the group in Yemen. Launched from the Red Sea, the strikes hit over a dozen sites, responding to a drone attack on a U.S.-owned vessel in the Gulf of Aden, which originated from areas controlled by the Houthis.

The Houthi-controlled Saba news agency identified Hodeidah, Taiz, Dhamar, al Bayda, and Saada as the targeted areas. The agency claimed the involvement of UK aircraft, but verification by The Guardian was unavailable. The U.S. military stated that the strikes aimed at 14 Houthi missiles, poised for launch from Yemen, posing an imminent threat to merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships in the region. Houthi attacks on ships in the region since November have disrupted trade between Asia and Europe and raised concerns among major powers. The Houthis, who dominate Yemen, claim to act in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

A recent drone attack by the Houthis in the Red Sea targeted the Genco Picardy bulk carrier, causing a fire quickly extinguished, with the vessel and crew reported safe. This attack followed the Biden administration’s announcement of reassigning the Houthis to its list of “specially designated global terrorists” on the same day. Despite sanctions and previous military operations, the Houthis persist in their harassment campaign against ships in the Red Sea.

Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder affirmed the U.S.’s commitment to military action to prevent further attacks, stating the Houthis exploit the situation for global attacks. The UK foreign secretary, David Cameron, indicated a need to explore various tools, including sanctions, to address the escalating behavior. Houthi leaders link their attacks to “Israeli aggression” in Gaza and warned of viewing sanctions as a declaration of war.

As shipping companies avoid the Red Sea route amid the crisis, humanitarian organizations express deep concern about the escalating humanitarian impacts in Yemen and the Red Sea. Over 75% of Yemenis depend on aid, and disruptions in trade contribute to higher prices and delays in delivering lifesaving goods. The recent designation of the Houthis as specially designated global terrorists aims to hold groups and financial organizations accountable for engaging with the Houthis, with humanitarian exemptions planned to protect Yemen’s people.

The U.S. official clarified that the designation’s intent is not to undermine the UN-led peace process but acknowledged potential challenges to peace talks.

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