THE US has hit and destroyed six Houthi anti-ship cruise missiles in Yemen.
The targets posed an “imminent threat” to vessels in the Red Sea, according to the US Central Command.
The US forces conducted the “self defence” strikes at around 7.20pm local time.
CENTCOM said: “This action will protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure for US Navy and merchant vessels.”
This follows further strikes from the US against targets in Syria and Iraq on Friday night.
Officials said American missile strikes hit more than 85 targets, including “command and control headquarters” and ammo dumps.
Iraq said 16 people, including civilians, were killed and 25 wounded in the strikes.
The US hit back after three of its troops were killed by a drone strike in Jordan last week.
US President Joe Biden said: “Let all those who might seek to do us harm know this: If you harm an American, we will respond.”
US Central Command said the strikes used more than 125 munitions, delivered by numerous aircraft, including long-range bombers.
Britain expressed support for the strikes and said the US had a “right to respond” to the attacks on American troops.
Who are the Houthis?
THE Houthi rebels are terrorising vessels and warships in the Red Sea – but who are they?
The Shia militant group, which now controls most of Yemen, spent over a decade being largely ignored by the world.
However, since the outbreak of the Israel-Gaza war they sprung from relative obscurity to holding roughly £1trillion of world trade hostage – turning one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes into an active warzone.
Their warped slogan is “Death to America, Death to Israel, curse the Jews and victory to Islam”.
Why are they attacking ships?
The rebel group has been launching relentless drone and missile attacks on any ships – including warships – they deem to be connected with Israel in solidarity with their ally Hamas.
The sea assaults have threatened to ignite a full-blown war in the Middle East as ripples from Israel’s war in Gaza are felt across the region – with Iran suspected of stoking the chaos.
However, there have been frequent attacks on commercial vessels with little or no link to Israel – forcing global sea traffic to halt operations in the region and sending shipping prices soaring.
Houthi attacks in the Red Sea increased 50 per cent between November and December.
The rebel group’s leaders have previously pledged the attacks will continue until Israel stops its devastating offensive inside Gaza – despite recent US and UK strikes on their military strongholds.