US Launches Defensive Airstrikes in Response to Houthi Anti-Ship Missile Attacks

In a decisive response to escalating tensions in the Red Sea, the United States has launched a series of defense operations against Houthi forces in Yemen, following the group’s attempt to target maritime assets with ballistic missiles. The United States Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed that it executed six defense strikes and deployed 18 anti-ship missiles as a countermeasure to the Houthis’ aggressive actions.

The incident unfolded when the Houthis, backed by Iran, launched two anti-ship ballistic missiles from territories under their control towards the Red Sea. Their target was the merchant vessel Pinocchio, a ship flying the Liberian flag and owned by Singapore, during the hours of 8:50 a.m. and 12:50 p.m. local time on a Monday. CENTCOM reports that, fortunately, the missiles missed their target, causing no injuries or damage to the vessel.

In a swift retaliation to these provocations, the United States Central Command carried out six self-defense strikes. These operations successfully neutralized an unmanned underwater vessel and destroyed 18 anti-ship missiles situated in areas of Yemen under Houthi dominion. These actions took place between 2:50 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., shortly after the initial missile launches by the Houthis, as detailed by CENTCOM.

An aerial photograph captured on March 6, 2024, showcases the Barbados-flagged ship True Confidence engulfed in flames following a missile attack by the Houthis at sea, highlighting the ongoing threat posed by the group to maritime security in the region.

CENTCOM officials have assessed that the weapons deployed by the Houthis represented an imminent threat to both merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships operating in the vicinity. The United States’ intervention aims to safeguard the principle of freedom of navigation, ensuring that international waters remain open and secure for naval and commercial vessels alike.

The initial attacks, which commenced last November, were initially portrayed by the Houthi rebels as a tactic to pressure Israel into halting the conflict that erupted after the October 7 terror incidents. Despite this, as shipping routes in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea began to be avoided due to the threat, the Houthi assaults persisted.

In response, U.S. and coalition naval forces have been actively intercepting and neutralizing Houthi projectiles that pose a threat to their operations, leaving commercial ships with minimal protection increasingly vulnerable to attacks. Since the onset of the U.S.-led airstrike campaign in January, the military reports that it has successfully intercepted and destroyed over 100 Houthi missiles. Despite these efforts, the relentless attacks by the Houthi rebels show no signs of waning, posing a continuous challenge to regional stability and security.

This report includes contributions from ABC News’ Lauren Minore.