Updated: 8:03 p.m. ET
U.S. and U.K. forces struck multiple sites in Yemen used by the Houthis, in response to attacks by the rebel group on ships in the Red Sea, President Joe Biden said Thursday in a statement. The strikes took place just hours after the British prime minister reportedly authorized strikes in a joint operation with the United States, and a day after the U.S. Navy secretary declared his forces ready to mount them.
The U.S.-U.K. strikes were supported by Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands, Biden said.
“These strikes are a direct response to unprecedented Houthi attacks against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea—including the use of anti-ship ballistic missiles for the first time in history,” Biden said. “More than 50 nations have been affected in 27 attacks on international commercial shipping.”
Fighter jets and Tomahawk missiles were used in the attacks, NBC News reported.
The strikes came a day after U.S. warnings.
“I can assure you that we will act with a tremendous amount of conviction,” Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro said Wednesday at the Surface Navy Association’s conference in Virginia, one day after Houthi forces attacked U.S. forces in the Red Sea on Tuesday with drones and missiles.
In his statement, Biden called the strikes a “defensive action,” and noted they followed an “extensive diplomatic campaign and Houthi rebels’ escalating attacks against commercial vessels. These targeted strikes are a clear message that the United States and our partners will not tolerate attacks on our personnel or allow hostile actors to imperil freedom of navigation in one of the world’s most critical commercial routes. I will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary.
On Thursday, U.S. Central Command officials reported the 27th attack on commercial shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden since Nov. 19.
“One commercial vessel reported visually observing the missile impact the water; however, there were no injuries or damage reported,” CENTCOM tweeted.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken warned of potential “consequences” for continued Houthi attacks.
Del Toro also highlighted the Navy’s efforts to accelerate the development of its own drones beneath and above the sea’s surface. His remarks come as the U.S. Navy surface fleet is under pressure not only in the Red Sea but also the Pacific where China is attempting to increase pressure on Taiwanese forces (beneath the threshold of armed conflict) ahead of upcoming elections. In his remarks, Del Toro also highlighted the steps that the Navy is taking to accelerate manned, unmanned teaming, train new personnel and acquire new ships.
“Early in the morning yesterday, I heard that we had upward of 30 UAVs that were targeted and cruise missiles that were targeted towards our fleet in the Red Sea,” Del Toro said. “I could not resist the temptation to go down there and to witness firsthand…And at the end of that hour I was so damn proud of the destroyers out there in the Red Sea.”