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Houthi rebels say at least 16 killed in joint US-British airstrikes

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak issues a statement after British and US forces struck Houthi targets in Yemen, at 10 Downing Street, London, Friday May 31, 2024
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak issues a statement after British and US forces struck Houthi targets in Yemen, at 10 Downing Street, London, Friday May 31, 2024 Copyright Associated Press
Copyright Associated Press
By Euronews with AP
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Joint British-US airstrikes targeting Yemen's Houthi rebels killed at least 16 people and wounded 42 others, the rebels said on Friday.

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The death toll is the highest publicly acknowledged death toll from the multiple rounds of strikes carried out over the Houthi rebels' attacks on shipping.

Three US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe a then-ongoing attack, described the strikes on Thursday as hitting a wide range of underground facilities, missile launchers, command and control sites, a Houthi vessel and other facilities. They called it a response to a recent surge in attacks by the Iran-backed militia group on ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden over the Israel-Hamas war.

The US F/A-18 fighter jets involved in the strikes took off from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier in the Red Sea, officials said. Other US warships in the region also participated.

But the Houthis focused on Friday morning on a strike they said struck a building housing Hodeida Radio and civilian homes in the port city on the Red Sea. Their Al Masirah satellite news channel aired images of one bloodied man being carried down stairs and others in the hospital, receiving aid. It said all the dead and nearly all the wounded from the strikes came from there.

The Houthis described all those killed and hurt in Hodeida as civilians, something The Associated Press couldn't immediately confirm. The rebel force that's held Yemen's capital, Sanaa, since 2014 includes fighters who often aren't in uniform.

Other strikes hit outside of Sanaa near its airport, and communication equipment in Taiz, the broadcaster said. Little other information was released on those sites — likely signaling that Houthi military sites had been struck. One person was wounded in Sanaa.

“We confirm this brutal aggression against Yemen as punishment for its position in support of Gaza, in support of Israel to continue its crimes of genocide against the wounded, besieged and steadfast Gaza Strip,” Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam posted on X.

Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a Houthi official, threatened both the US and UK with further retaliation.

“We will meet escalation with escalation,” he wrote on X.

Yemen's military spokesman, Brigadier General Yahya Saree, gave the casualty figures, then alleged without offering any evidence that the rebels targeted the Eisenhower in response with drones and ballistic missiles. Another US defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said that the aircraft carrier was fine.

In the United Kingdom, the country's Defence Ministry said that Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4s conducted strikes on both Hodeida and further south in Ghulayfiqah. It described its targets as “buildings identified as housing drone ground control facilities and providing storage for very long-range drones, as well as surface-to-air weapons.”

“The strikes were taken in self-defence in the face of an ongoing threat that the Houthis pose,” UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said. “There's an ongoing threat that the Houthis pose.”

The US and the UK have launched strikes against the Houthis since January, with the US regularly carrying out its own in the time since as well. Abdul Malik al-Houthi, the Houthis’ secretive supreme leader, offered an overall death toll for the strikes up to that point as 40 people killed and 35 others wounded. He didn't offer a breakdown between civilian and combatant casualties at the time.

The Houthis have stepped up attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, demanding that Israel end the war in Gaza, which has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians there. The war began after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostage.

The Houthis have launched more than 50 attacks on shipping, killed three sailors, seized one vessel and sunk another since November, according to the US Maritime Administration. This week, they attacked a ship carrying grain to Iran, the rebels' main benefactor.

On Wednesday, another U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone apparently crashed in Yemen, with the Houthis claiming they fired a surface-to-air missile at it. The US Air Force didn’t report any aircraft missing, leading to suspicion that the drone may have been piloted by the CIA. As many as three may have been lost in May alone.

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