U.S. forces carried out airstrikes late Wednesday on 14 Houthi missiles in western Yemen, U.S. Central Command said.
The missiles were loaded to be fired and were an “imminent threat to merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships in the region,” a USCENTCOM statement said.
“The actions by the Iranian-backed Houthi terrorists continue to endanger international mariners and disrupt the commercial shipping lanes in the Southern Red Sea and adjacent waterways,” General Michael Erik Kurilla, USCENTCOM commander, said.
“We will continue to take actions to protect the lives of innocent mariners and we will always protect our people,” he said.
The U.S. strikes are the fourth direct action, including those taken alongside British forces, against Houthi sites in Yemen in response to attacks and threats to vessels in the Red Sea.
The strikes came hours after a one-way attack drone launched from the Houthi-controlled part of Yemen struck the Marshall Islands-flagged, U.S.-owned and -operated M/V Genco Picardy in the Gulf of Aden.
The ship’s operator reported no injuries from the attack and said the ship suffered limited damage.
The Houthis say they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians amid Israel’s war against Hamas militants in Gaza and have carried out more than 30 attacks in the Red Sea.
Major shipping companies have responded by rerouting vessels on the longer and more expensive route around Africa. The Red Sea route is a vital shipping link between Europe and Asia, carrying about 15% of the world’s maritime traffic.
Pentagon press secretary Major General Pat Ryder told reporters earlier Wednesday that the U.S. military would continue to take military action to prevent further Houthi attacks.
“They are exploiting this situation to conduct attacks against the ships and vessels from more than 50 countries … around the world. And so we’re going to continue to work with our partners in the region to prevent those attacks or deter those attacks in the future,” Ryder said.
Wednesday’s attacks also followed the U.S. placing the Houthis back on its list of specially designated global terrorists.
The Houthis seized Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in 2014, forcing the internationally recognized government into exile and prompting a Saudi-led, U.S.-supported coalition to launch a military campaign against the Houthis in early 2015.
The conflict has killed more than 150,000 people and left Yemen with one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.