Houthi rebels say at least 16 killed and 35 others injured in joint US-British airstrikes in Yemen

Dubai, United Arab Emirates — Joint British-American airstrikes on Houthi rebels in Yemen have killed at least 16 people and injured 35 others, the rebels said on Friday, the highest publicly acknowledged death toll of the multiple rounds of attacks carried out in response to the rebels' attacks on shipping .

Three U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe an attack at the time, described Thursday's strikes as hitting a wide range of underground facilities, missile launchers, command and control sites, a Houthi ship and other facilities. They called it a response to a recent wave of attacks by the Iran-backed militia group on ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden due to the war between Israel and Hamas.

The U.S. F/A-18 fighter jets involved in the attacks took off from the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Red Sea, officials said. Other US warships in the region also took part.

But the Houthis focused on just one of the attacks Friday morning, which they said hit a building housing Hodeida Radio and civilian homes in the Red Sea port city. Their satellite news channel Al Masirah broadcast images of a bloodied man being carried downstairs and others receiving help at the hospital.

The Houthis described all the dead and wounded in Hodeida as civilians, something The Associated Press could not immediately confirm. The rebel force that has controlled Yemen's capital Sanaa since 2014 consists of fighters who are often not in uniform.

Other attacks took place outside Sanaa, near the airport, and communications equipment in Taiz, the broadcaster said. Little other information was released at those sites – likely a signal that Houthi military sites had been hit.

“We confirm this brutal aggression against Yemen as punishment for its position in support of Gaza, in support of Israel to continue its crimes of genocide against the wounded, besieged and steadfast Gaza Strip,” Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam wrote on X.

Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a Houthi official, threatened both the US and Britain with further retaliation.

“We will meet escalation with escalation,” he wrote on X.

In the United Kingdom, the country's Ministry of Defense said Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4s carried out strikes on both Hodeida and further south in Ghulayfiqah. It described its targets as “buildings identified as housing drone ground control facilities and providing storage for very long-range drones, as well as surface-to-air weapons.”

“The attacks were carried out in self-defense in the face of an ongoing threat posed by the Houthis,” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said. “There is an ongoing threat that the Houthis pose.”

The US and Britain have launched attacks against the Houthis since January, while the US has also carried out regular strikes of its own since then. Abdul Malik al-Houthi, the Houthis' secretive supreme leader, gave a total death toll for the attacks so far that had killed 40 people and injured 35 others. At the time, he did not provide a breakdown between civilian and combatant casualties.

The Houthis have stepped up attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden and are demanding that Israel end the war in Gaza, which has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians there. The war began after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking about 250 hostage.

The Houthis have carried out more than 50 attacks on shipping since November, killing three sailors, seizing one ship and sinking another, according to the U.S. Maritime Administration. This week they attacked a ship carrying grain to Iran, the rebels' main benefactor.

On Wednesday, another US MQ-9 Reaper drone apparently crashed in Yemen, with the Houthis claiming they fired a surface-to-air missile at it. The US Air Force has not reported any missing aircraft, raising suspicions that the drone may have been controlled by the CIA. No fewer than three were lost in May alone.

___

Lolita C. Baldor reported from Washington.

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