The latest US-UK air strikes on Houthi military targets in Yemen were “not an escalation” but were necessary to “protect innocent lives and preserve freedom of navigation” in the Red Sea, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has said.
American and British forces struck 36 targets across 13 locations, according to a joint statement by the eight nations involved, with the strikes launched by ships and fighter jets.
Australia, Bahrain, Denmark, Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand supported the strikes, which targeted deeply buried weapons storage facilities, missile systems and launchers, air defence systems, and radars.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said as part of the attack Royal Air Force (RAF) jets targeted a ground control station inside a Houthi defensive position at As Salif, on the Red Sea coast.
Mr Shapps said: “The Houthis’ attacks on commercial and military vessels in the Red Sea are illegal and unacceptable and it is our duty to protect innocent lives and preserve freedom of navigation.
“That is why the Royal Air Force engaged in a third wave of proportionate and targeted strikes against Houthi military targets in Yemen.
“We acted alongside our US allies, with the support of many international partners, in self-defence and in accordance with international law.
“This is not an escalation. We have already successfully targeted launchers and storage sites involved in Houthi attacks, and I am confident that our latest strikes have further degraded the Houthis’ capabilities.”
NBC News reported than two dozen aircraft who took part in the attack launched off of the USS Eisenhower, and some carried 2,000 pound bombs and sidewinder air-to-air missiles and other precision guided missiles.
Missiles were also launched from the USS Gravely and USS Carney, according to officials.
The attack mark the third time the US and Britain had conducted a large, joint operation to strike the Iran-back militant group.
They also come after the US on Friday targeted more than 85 military sites in Iraq and Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and militias it backs. The US says the strikes were in response to a drone attack which killed three American soldiers last weekend in north-eastern Jordan.
A joint statement on the strikes from all the nations involved in them said they were were “proportionate and necessary”.
The statement said: “These precision strikes are intended to disrupt and degrade the capabilities that the Houthis use to threaten global trade, and the lives of innocent mariners, and are in response to a series of illegal, dangerous, and destabilising Houthi actions since previous coalition strikes,
“Recognising the broad consensus of the international community, our coalition of like-minded countries committed to upholding the rules-based order has continued to grow. We remain committed to protecting freedom of navigation and international commerce and holding the Houthis accountable for their illegal and unjustifiable attacks on commercial shipping and naval vessels.
“Our aim remains to de-escalate tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea but let us reiterate our warning to Houthi leadership: we will not hesitate to continue to defend lives and the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways in the face of continued threats.”
Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4s were used in tonight’s airstrikes on Houthi targets in Yemen, the MoD said.
They were supported by Voyager tankers and joined by US forces.
The Typhoons used Paveway IV precision-guided bombs against multiple military targets “identified by careful intelligence analysis at three locations”, the MoD said.
It said the strikes had been “very carefully planned to ensure minimal risk of civilian casualties”, and they had been carried out at night for the same reason.
The MoD said the defensive station at As Salif had been used to control Houthi drones launched from further inland that were operating over the sea.
Along the same stretch of coastline, the MoD said it had confirmed a second drone ground control station at Al Munirah.
A “significant number of targets” were also attacked in the Bani region of Yemen.
The MoD said RAF aircraft had already struck an initial group of facilities there on 11 January.
It said since then it has identified a further set of buildings it believes was involved in the Houthi drone and missile operations – and these were hit in tonight’s strikes.
UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said the latest attacks on Houthi sites is “not an escalation” in its conflict with the militant group, adding he is “confident” they have further degraded the group’s capabilities.
He added: “The Houthis’ attacks on commercial and military vessels in the Red Sea are illegal and unacceptable and it is our duty to protect innocent lives and preserve freedom of navigation.
“That is why the Royal Air Force engaged in a third wave of proportionate and targeted strikes against Houthi military targets in Yemen. We acted alongside our US allies, with the support of many international partners, in self-defence and in accordance with international law.
“Having recently met those British personnel stationed in the region, I know the dedication and professionalism with which they serve our nation’s armed forces and I would like to thank them for ensuring this operation was a success.”
The US said Friday’s strikes were in relation for a drone attack which killed three American soldiers last weekend in north-eastern Jordan that it believes was launched by Iran-backed militias.
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, which is believed to to be armed, funded and trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards force, claimed responsibility for the attack in Jordan.
Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron told The Sunday Times Iran would be “held accountable” for its proxies, adding he “quite understands” America’s desire to respond.
He said: “We need to send the clearest possible signal to Iran that what they’re doing through their proxies is unacceptable.”
The Houthis, who control the most populous parts of Yemen, say their attacks on shipping are are a result of Israel’S bombardment of Gaza and say they will continue until agrees to a ceasefire.
On 27 January the Houthis attacked British oil tanker Marlin Luanda, resulting in it catching fire