US denies seeking war with Yemen as new strikes reported
Washington does not want its operation in the Red Sea to turn into a conflict with Yemen, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CBS on Sunday. The comments came amid media reports about further strikes launched against Yemeni targets by American and British forces on the same day.
Last week, the US and UK launched a military operation in the Red Sea in response to the actions of the Yemen-based Houthi Islamist group. The Houthis have pledged solidarity with Palestinians amid the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. They have also vowed to target merchant vessels sailing through the Gulf of Aden until Israel stops its war with Hamas.
More than 50 countries have been affected by 27 Houthi attacks on ships as of mid-January, the US said. American and British forces launched sorties against dozens of Houthi-related targets in Yemen over the past few days.
When asked about the course of the operation, Kirby praised the military effort, saying, “we think we had good effect.” He added that the air raids were aimed at “degrading” the Houthis’ ability to conduct their own strikes.
His assessment appears to differ from that provided by the New York Times on Saturday. The US-led actions failed to significantly weaken the militants’ potential, the paper reported, citing its sources, adding that only around 25% of the group’s assets had been destroyed.
On Sunday, Kirby said Washington is not ruling out a retaliatory strike by the Houthis and was “watching [the situation] very, very closely.” Some “necessary precautions” were also taken, he said, without going into detail.
Asked whether the US risks another “open-ended conflict” in the region, he replied that Washington wants to avoid this. “Nobody wants a conflict with the Houthis. We’re not looking for a conflict with Yemen here. We’re trying to get these attacks to stop.”
Earlier on Sunday, Sky News Arabia reported, citing Houthi media, that a Houthi missile launch platform and an operations facility in the port city of Hodeida had been targeted in a new air raid on Sunday. The Yemeni sources also reported massive reconnaissance-drone sightings over the area. The sources accused the US and UK forces of bombing the city.
Washington denied carrying out any operations on Sunday. “No US or coalition strike occurred today,” a defense official told AFP.
The American and British bombing campaigns were condemned by Russia and Türkiye. Moscow called the operations “illegitimate” due to the lack of UN Security Council permission, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the two nations of seeking to turn the Red Sea into a “sea of blood.”