The White House said on Wednesday that additional U.S. airstrikes against the Iran-backed Houthi insurgents of Yemen destroyed at least four anti-ship missiles the Houthis were preparing to launch at ships in the Red Sea.
The Houthis still managed to hit a Greek-owned cargo ship with a missile, causing minor damage and forcing it to divert away from the Suez Canal.
“We’re not looking for a war. We’re not looking to expand this. The Houthis have a choice to make and they still have time to make the right choice, which is to stop these reckless attacks,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said when he disclosed the airstrikes, which were conducted Tuesday.
Kirby said the White House expected “some retaliatory strikes” after U.S. and British forces bombed the Houthis last week. He dismissed subsequent Houthi attacks as “much smaller than what we had seen before, and none of them effective.”
“We believe that we did have a good effect with those strikes in terms of disrupting and degrading their capability to conduct military offensive operations,” he said.
Kirby credited effective countermeasures by U.S. and allied naval forces with intercepting Houthi attacks and preventing them from causing severe damage to civilian vessels. He also noted the Houthis have targeted “very big ships” that “don’t have large crews,” thanks to modern technology, so the missiles fired by the Iran-backed terrorists have not inflicted major casualties.
“Just because there hasn’t been a catastrophically successful [Houthi attack] yet, thanks to a lot of great work by the U.S. Navy and allied and partner navies, doesn’t mean that we can just turn a blind eye, and sit back, and do nothing. We want these attacks to stop,” he added.
“We warned the Houthis not to conduct them. They continued to conduct them. So we took action on Friday night to more significantly degrade their capability to do that,” he said.
Kirby concluded by saying the U.S. and its allies in the Red Sea will not “hesitate to take further action if needed.”
A missile struck the Greek-owned, Maltese-flagged bulk carrier MT Zografia on Tuesday while it was heading north through the Red Sea, bound from Vietnam to Israel.
The Zografia “sustained limited damage” but stayed in “navigable condition,” according to a source in the Greek maritime affairs ministry. No casualties were reported among its 24-member crew, and there was no cargo aboard at the time. The ship diverted away from the Suez Canal and headed to port after the attack.
The Houthis took responsibility for attacking the Zografia, claiming they scored a “direct hit” with a missile launched after the crew “refused calls from [Houthi] naval forces” and ignored “repeated fiery warning messages.”
Houthi chief negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam said on Monday that attacks would continue until Israel halts operations against the Hamas terrorists in Gaza.
“Our position on the events in Palestine and the aggression against Gaza has not changed and would not change, neither after the strike nor after the threats. The attacks to prevent Israeli ships or those heading to the ports of occupied Palestine are continuing,” he said.