Following American, British Strikes Against Yemen, Houthi Ansar Allah Movement Threatens Retaliation; Senior Houthi Leaders Claim Group Has Attacked U.S., British Warships In Red Sea, Declare 'Open War'

January 12, 2024

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On January 12, 2024 the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced that, at 2:30 a.m. Sanaa time on the previous day, CENTCOM forces had conducted joint strikes on targets of Yemen's Iran-backed Ansar Allah Movement (the Houthis), in coordination with Britain and with support from Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, and Bahrain, "to degrade [the Houthis'] capability to continue their illegal and reckless attacks on U.S. and international vessels and commercial shipping in the Red Sea." According to the statement, the strikes "targeted radar systems, air defense systems, and storage and launch sites for one way attack unmanned aerial systems, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles."

CENTCOM notes that the Iran-backed Houthis "have attempted to attack and harass 27 ships in international shipping lanes" since October 17, 2023 using anti-ship ballistic missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles and cruise missiles in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. CENTCOM also stresses that these strikes on Yemen "are separate from Operation Prosperity Guardian, a defensive coalition of over 20 countries operating in the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandeb Strait, and Gulf of Aden."

CENTCOM commander General Michael Erik Kurilla stated: "We hold the Houthi militants and their destabilizing Iranian sponsors responsible for the illegal, indiscriminate, and reckless attacks on international shipping that have impacted 55 nations so far, including endangering the lives of hundreds of mariners, including the United States. Their illegal and dangerous actions will not be tolerated, and they will be held accountable."

Houthi Spokesman Acknowledges American, British Strikes On Yemen, Threatens Retaliation Against "All Hostile Targets On Land And At Sea"

Several hours later, a Houthi military spokesman issued a statement responding to the strikes and threatening retaliation against the U.S. and Britain. Opening with the Quranic verse (2:194) "So, if anyone attacks you, retaliate in the same manner," the statement reads: "The American and British enemy, as part of its support for the ongoing Israeli crime against Gaza, launched an unjust [campaign of] aggression against the Yemeni republic, with 73 airstrikes targeting the capital Sanaa and the Al-Hudaydah, Ta'izz, Hajjah, and Sa'dah governorates. The strikes caused five people to be martyred and wounded six other members of our armed forces.

"The American and British enemy bears full responsibility for his criminal aggression against our Yemeni people, and this will not pass without a response or punishment. The Yemeni armed forces will not hesitate to target the sources of the threat and all hostile targets on land and at sea, in order to defend Yemen and its sovereignty and independence.

"This unjust aggression will not deter Yemen from its stance of backing and supporting the victimized Palestinian people. The Yemeni armed forces declare they will continue to prevent Israeli ships, or ships bound for the ports of occupied Palestine, from passing though the Arabian and Red Seas."

The statement made no mention of any attacks carried out by the Houthis in response to the American and British strikes, but several other Houthi officials claimed that the group had responded by attacking American and British warships in the Red Sea:

Houthi Shura Council Member Claims Strikes On American, British Warships In Red Sea, Vows To Continue Attacks Until U.S., Britain Leave Region

On January 12, a Houthi Shura Council member stated that the group had retaliated by attacking several American and British warships, "igniting a major battle in the Red Sea."

Commenting on British PM Rishi Sunak's call for the Houthis to de-escalate, the council member added: "The party that embroiled itself [in the conflict] will pay the price. We will not stop our attacks until you leave the region. We will not stop trampling you until we see you disgraced and humiliated. Yemen is now punishing Britain and America in the sea."

In another X post, he wrote: "Now they are begging for de-escalation. They fired the first shot. We are the ones who will determine where the battle takes place. They will find us only where they do not want [to find us]. We are not people who fear America."

Houthi Political Bureau Member Declares "Open War" Against U.S., Britain, Threatens To Continue Attacks Until Israel Disappears

On January 12, the Houthi Political Bureau member commented on X: "We have the honor and pride of standing with Palestine… The battle will become greater and greater, and will be beyond the imagination of the Americans and the British. This is open war. The Yemeni power is ready and our hand is on the trigger. They will taste this [power], Allah willing, and regret their aggression… They will pay a heavy price, Allah willing… The days are pregnant with surprises. Yemen, with its people, leaders, armed forces, and advanced military capabilities, is mighty."

In another post, he wrote: "The Yemen response was not delayed. The Yemeni armed forces are responding forcefully [with attacks] on the American and British warships in the Red Sea. A war is raging in the Red Sea. American and British positions and military bases are being targeted. What is coming will be [even] greater."

Declaring that "Yemen's great and strategic operations in defense of Palestine and Gaza, and its strikes on Israel and its ships in the Red Sea" will only stop when the "aggression" and "siege" of Gaza end, he called on the U.S. and Britain to realize that "this is a constant equation that will absolutely not change or vary until victory is achieved and Israel disappears." He added: "The Americans and British must sustain blows… They will suffer pain, and have already suffered… They opened the door wide. This is open war and we have endurance. It is the battle of promised conquest and sacred jihad."

Following the U.S. forces' sinking of three Houthi vessels on December 31, 2023, the group's information minister declared that a direct conflict with America had begun,and on January 10 the Houthis claimed a missile and drone attack on a U.S. ship "providing support" to Israel.

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