The U.S. and United Kingdom conducted strikes on 18 Houthi targets in Yemen as the terrorist group’s attacks on commercial shipping and naval vessels escalated, the countries said in a statement Saturday.

Saturday’s strikes are the fourth large-scale combined attacks involving the U.S. and U.K., as well as non-operational support from at least six other nations, on Houthi assets in Yemen the rebel group uses to terrorize Red Sea shipping. They targeted 18 targets at eight different locations in Yemen, including underground weapons and missile storage facilities, drones, air defense systems, radars and one helicopter, according to a joint statement.

“These precision strikes are intended to disrupt and degrade the capabilities that the Houthis use to threaten global trade, naval vessels, and the lives of innocent mariners in one of the world’s most critical waterways,” the statement read.

“These strikes are in response to Houthis’ continued attacks against commercial and naval vessels that have not only endangered international seafarers but the lives of the Yemeni people,” it continued.

On Feb. 22, the Houthis struck the U.K.-owned M/V Islander with a missile, injuring one crew member, the statement read. On Feb. 19, a missile nearly hit the U.S.-owned M/V Sea Champion that was on its way to deliver humanitarian aid to Yemen.

Another attack on Feb. 19 struck a U.S.-owned vessel.

On Feb. 18, a Houthi missile attack critically damaged the U.K.-owned M/V Rubymar, forcing the crew to abandon ship, the statement read. The Rubymar continues to take on water and leak fuel into the Red Sea, creating an environmental hazard, according to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).

The Pentagon acknowledged Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea appeared to increase in frequency and severity following the designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization.

“We’ve certainly seen in the past 48, 72 hours an increase in attacks from the Houthis, more consistency,” Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said at a press conference on Feb. 22.

The Houthis have attacked commercial and naval ships with drones, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles more than 45 times since mid-November, threatening the global economy and security, according to the statement.

Although the U.S. has conducted dozens of dynamic strikes on Houthi missiles or drones prepared to launch and conducted multiple large-scale strikes on Houthi locations, attacks have not ceased.

“Our aim remains to de-escalate tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea, but we will once again reiterate our warning to Houthi leadership: we will not hesitate to continue to defend lives and the free flow of commerce in the face of continued threats,” the statement read.

Micaela Burrow on February 24, 2024

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