The United States and Britain launched strikes against 36 Houthi targets in Yemen on Saturday, in the second day of major U.S. operations against Iran-linked groups following a deadly attack on American troops last weekend.
The strikes hit buried weapons storage facilities, missile systems, launchers and other capabilities the Houthis have used to attack Red Sea shipping, the Pentagon said, adding it targeted 13 locations across the country.
It was the latest sign of spreading conflict in the Middle East since war erupted between Israel and Hamas after the militant Palestinian group’s deadly assault on Israel on Oct.7.
“This collective action sends a clear message to the Houthis that they will continue to bear further consequences if they do not end their illegal attacks on international shipping and naval vessels,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said.
Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Sarea said the U.S. strikes “will not pass without a response and consequences.”
The Yemen strikes are running parallel to an unfolding U.S. campaign of military retaliation over the killing of three American soldiers in a drone strike by Iran-backed militants on an outpost in Jordan.
On Friday, the U.S. carried out the first wave of that retaliation, striking in Iraq and Syria against more than 85 targets linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and militias it backs, reportedly killing nearly 40 people.
While Washington accuses Iran-backed militias of attacking U.S. troops at bases in Iraq, Syria and Jordan, Yemen’s Iran-linked Houthis have been regularly targeting commercial ships and warships in the Red Sea.
The Houthis, who control the most populous parts of Yemen, say their attacks are in solidarity with Palestinians as Israel strikes Gaza. But the U.S. and its allies characterize them as indiscriminate and a menace to global trade.
Faced with mounting Red Sea violence, major shipping lines have largely abandoned the critical trade route for longer routes around Africa. This has increased costs, feeding worries about global inflation while sapping Egypt of crucial foreign revenue from shippers sailing the Suez Canal to or from the Red Sea.
Biden’s emerging strategy on Yemen aims to weaken the Houthi militants but stops well short of trying to defeat the group or directly attack Iran, the Houthis’ main sponsor, experts say.
The strategy blends limited military strikes and sanctions, and appears aimed at punishing the Houthis while attempting to limit the risk of a broad Middle East conflict.
The U.S. has carried out more than a dozen strikes against Houthi targets in the past several weeks, but these have failed to stop attacks by the group.
Sarea, the Houthi military spokesperson, suggested in a statement on social media that the group’s intervention in the Red Sea would continue.
“These attacks will not deter us from our ethical, religious and humanitarian stance in support of the resilient Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip,” Sarea said.
Just hours before the latest major wave of strikes from the sea and air, the U.S. military’s Central Command issued statements detailing other, more limited strikes in the past day that included hitting six cruise missiles the Houthis were preparing to launch against ships in the Red Sea.
Around 4 a.m. in Yemen (0100 GMT), the U.S. military also struck a Houthi anti-ship cruise missile that was poised to launch.
“This is not an escalation,” said British Defence Minister Grant Shapps. “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.”
The United States said Sunday’s strikes had support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and New Zealand. U.S. Central Command said that beyond missile capabilities, the strikes targeted drone storage and operations sites, radars and helicopters.
Despite the strikes against Iran-linked groups, the Pentagon has said it does not want war with Iran and does not believe Tehran wants war either. U.S. Republicans have been ratcheting up pressure on President Joe Biden, a Democrat, to deal a blow to Iran directly.
It was unclear how Tehran would respond to the strikes, which do not directly target Iran but degrade groups it backs.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said in a statement the attacks in Iraq and Syria represented “another adventurous and strategic mistake by the United States that will result only in increased tension and instability”.
Iraq summoned the U.S. charge d’affaires in Baghdad to deliver a formal protest after strikes in that country.
The Houthi military said in its statement that the United States and Britain carried out a total of 48 airstrikes on Yemen, with 13 of them in the capital Sanaa and Sanaa Governorate. Another 11 strikes were on Taiz Governorate and nine were on Hodeidah Governorate.
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Top IDF Brass Blindsided by UNRWA Fallout
i24 News – Senior Israel Defense Forces (IDF) command was caught off guard by the speed with which the allegations implicating UNRWA staffers in the October 7 atrocities became public knowledge, according to a New York Times report published Saturday.
When, on January 18, UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini sat down with senior Israeli diplomat Amir Weissbrod in Tel Aviv for a routine meeting, the UN official was supplied with intelligence about the agency employees’ involvement in the massacre.
While the intelligence was provided by the IDF, the military establishment didn’t expect the explosive information to leak into the public domain. It emerged that Lazzarini relayed the allegations to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and began firing employees, eventually reporting the developments to U.S. officials.
Unnamed IDF officials cited in the NYT report were concerned that the allegations had been disseminated without Israel having devised a proper strategy for the fallout.
European countries, from the UK to Germany, as well as the United States, Canada and Australia all froze funding to UNRWA amid reviews in the aid agency and its employees.
While some have pushed for a complete shutdown of the agency, including U.S. lawmakers and Israeli ministers, others — including unnamed senior IDF officials — have said that it was inadvisable to do so during the war when UNRWA was providing needed humanitarian aid.
Hamas Turns Down Hostage Deal, Demands Israel Release More Terrorists
i24 News – Hamas on Sunday said it rejected the proposed hostage deal formulated in Paris, demanding that Israel release more Palestinian terrorists locked up in Israeli jails, according to a Saudi outlet.
There are 136 hostages held in Gaza by Hamas and other Palestinian jihadists, abducted during the October 7 incursion and massacre.
The statement comes hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reiterated Israel had “red lines” which could not be crossed.
Thus, the leader said, Israel will not end the war until all its goals are met, namely “the eradication of Hamas, the rescue of all our hostages, and ensuring that Gaza will never again pose a threat to Israel.”
“We will not agree to every deal, and not at any price,” he said, adding reports in the local media whereby Israel agreed to freeing large numbers of terrorists were not true.
The post Hamas Turns Down Hostage Deal, Demands Israel Release More Terrorists first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
Dennis Ross Is Blaming Israel Again
JNS.org – Former U.S. Middle East envoy Dennis Ross just can’t stop blaming Israel.
Speaking via Zoom for the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism & Policy on Jan. 31, Ross offered some expected, perfunctory criticism of Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah. But again and again, he managed to bring in one-sided and unfair criticism of Israel.
Referring to Israel’s counter-terrorism actions in Judea and Samaria, Ross said: “West Bank violence [by Arabs] is not disconnected from Israel’s policies in the West Bank.”
That’s just absurd. The terrorists are not responding to Israeli policies. They were murdering Jews long before there were any settlements or so-called occupied territories. They oppose Israel’s existence, not its borders. It’s these terrorists who are the aggressors, and Israelis must respond to them.
Regarding Gaza, Ross said: “The Israelis haven’t done everything they could to spare civilians in Gaza.” Is he kidding? The Israelis have refrained from striking terrorist targets where there are civilians. They have personally warned civilians to evacuate, again and again, through leaflets and phone calls and public announcements. They have risked the lives of their own soldiers by going house to house, instead of just bombing from the air. What else can they possibly do?
Ross also commented on the recent ruling by the International Court of Justice—the ruling that failed to condemn Hamas and demanded that Israel give more aid to Palestinians in Gaza. He said the ruling was “not irresponsible” and that it was provoked by “extreme statements by Israeli politicians.” That’s simply nonsense. The statement that the court cited most prominently was made by Israel’s left-leaning president, Isaac Herzog, who said that many ordinary Gazans supported the Hamas massacre, which was a perfectly reasonable statement of fact.
The practice of saying a few perfunctory crucial words about terrorists and then “balancing” it with criticism of Israel is typical of the grotesque “even-handedness” that Ross and his colleagues pushed during his many years at the U.S. State Department.
That approach was wrong then, and it’s wrong now. There can be no “balance” between good and evil. Israel and the Palestinian Authority are not on the same moral level. Israel is America’s loyal, reliable, democratic ally. The P.A. is a terror-sponsoring, hate-mongering dictatorship.
In recent months, Ross has been saying that Israel should allow the Hamas leadership to leave Gaza in exchange for the release of the remaining hostages. He points to Israel’s decision in 1982, under U.S. pressure, to allow PLO chief Yasser Arafat and thousands of PLO terrorists to leave besieged Beirut.
But Ross never mentions what happened after Arafat left. He didn’t retire. He set up PLO terrorist headquarters in Tunisia, and then 20 additional years of terrorism followed—suicide bombings, intifadas, mass shootings, stabbings. Ross’s new plan would have the same result.
This is the same Dennis Ross who has acknowledged—on the op-ed page of The Washington Post in 2014—that he pressured Israel to allow Hamas to import concrete. Ross wrote that the Israelis opposed his demand because they feared that Hamas would use the cement to build terror tunnels. Ross insisted the concrete would be used to build houses, and because of his pressure, the Israelis gave in. We all know the result.
In his Zoom talk this week, Ross had the chutzpah to mention that Hamas used imported cement to build tunnels instead of homes, though never mentioned that he was the one who helped them to get that cement into Gaza in the first place.
Ross is frequently quoted in The New York Times and invited to appear on television shows and webinars. He’s treated as if his past involvement in Mideast diplomacy makes him an expert on how to make peace today. Yet every one of those diplomatic efforts failed. He has never facilitated real peace because he continues to pretend that both sides are to blame for the absence of peace.
The Jewish world is full of talented speakers, thinkers and writers. Surely, our institutions should be able to find more thoughtful lecturers than those same tired, old critics of Israel with their familiar and disastrous proposals.