Houthi forces in Yemen vowed on Friday to retaliate for an American-led barrage of military strikes, as the Middle East went on alert for more escalation that could expand the conflict and further disrupt critical shipping routes between Europe and Asia.
The predawn strikes on Friday, with missiles and warplanes launched by the United States and Britain, came in response to intensifying attacks on commercial vessels and warships in the Red Sea by the Iran-backed Houthi militia, which has said it was acting in solidarity with Palestinians in the war between Israel and Hamas.
A military spokesman for the Houthis, Yahya Saree, said in a post on social media that the U.S.-led strikes would “not go unanswered and unpunished.” He said they had killed at least five members of the Houthi forces, an armed group that controls northern Yemen, including the capital, Sana.
The American and British forces fired more than 150 missiles and bombs at several dozen targets in Yemen, chosen specifically to damage the Houthis’ ability to imperil shipping — weapons storage areas, radars and missile and drone launch sites — U.S. officials said. It was the first Western assault after repeated warnings by the United States and its allies that the Houthis and Iran must halt the attacks at sea or face consequences, only to see them increase.
“I would expect that they will attempt some sort of retaliation,” said Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, the director of the U.S. military’s Joint Staff, told reporters on a conference call on Friday, adding that would be a mistake. “We simply are not going to be messed with here.”
John Kirby, a White House spokesman, said on Friday that the attacks, ordered by President Biden, had not been intended to ignite a wider regional war.
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