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U.S. launches new military strikes in Yemen

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U.S. forces launched a new wave of strikes on Saturday, officials said, focusing on Houthi militants in Yemen who have launched dozens of attacks on commercial vessels and U.S. warships off the Arabian Peninsula.

The operation follows the bombardment Friday night of an estimated 85 targets in Iraq and Syria, in what the Biden administration has cast as a multi-day campaign to prevent future attacks on American personnel. Militias in both countries, backed by Iran, have launched at least 165 attacks on U.S. forces since October, including one on Jan. 28 that killed three U.S. soldiers at a remote outpost in Jordan near the Syrian and Iraqi borders, Pentagon officials have said.

President Biden has said that the U.S. response will continue “at times and places of our choosing.”

The Houthis, a militant group that seized control of much of Yemen in 2014, has for months launched attacks on both civilian and military vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, using an array of missiles, one-way attack drones, and remotely piloted vessels packed with explosives. Like the militias in Iraq and Syria, the Houthis have cast their actions as a protest of Israeli military action on the Gaza Strip and U.S. support for it.

The Houthi strikes have not killed any civilians or U.S. forces at sea, but have spiraled into near-daily violence. U.S. warships have taken down numerous missiles and attack drones, but others have struck commercial vessels, causing fires and prompting a large number of mariners to elect to avoid the Red Sea and Suez Canal, making a much longer voyage around the southern Horn of Africa.

For weeks, the Biden administration mostly avoided tangling directly with the Houthis, even as the militants continued to lob missiles into shipping channels. But the United States shifted gears Jan. 12, joining with Britain to launch dozens of strikes on Houthi targets. U.S. forces have carried out numerous strikes since, typically saying that they have destroyed missiles that were prepared to be fired.

Earlier Saturday, about 7:20 p.m. in Yemen, U.S. forces carried out six such strikes, said U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the region. In a statement, Centcom officials said that they had identified anti-ship cruise missiles that were to be launched into the Red Sea.

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