January 12, 2024 | Flash Brief

Houthis Vow to Continue Attacks Despite U.S., UK Airstrikes

January 12, 2024 | Flash Brief

Houthis Vow to Continue Attacks Despite U.S., UK Airstrikes

Latest Developments

The Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen vowed on January 12 to continue to attack ships in the Red Sea. The United States and the United Kingdom, with support from Australia, the Netherlands, Canada, and Bahrain, carried out airstrikes on the Houthis on January 11. “The American and British enemy bears full responsibility for its criminal aggression against our Yemeni people, and it will not go unanswered and unpunished,” a Houthi spokesperson said. The Houthis have carried out 27 attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea since October.

Expert Analysis

“The Iran-backed Houthis pose a serious threat to shipping and they must be deterred from further attacks. The Houthis have acted with impunity, attacking more than two dozen ships over a period of two months. The U.S. and UK airstrikes are an important first response. Iran is using the Houthis as a proxy, encouraging their drone and missile attacks. It is essential that Iran be held accountable for its support of the Houthis.” — Seth J. Frantzman, FDD Adjunct Fellow

“Degrading Houthi long-range strike capabilities in a one-off strike or sporadic series of attacks is one thing, but signaling an intent to mete out punishment over time if Houthi maritime harassment continues is another. Currently, the Houthis and their patron in Tehran have no incentive to believe this strike was not a copy-paste from Biden of his Iraq and Syria retaliation, which also failed to restore deterrence.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

“After October 7, the Houthis attempted and failed to mount a successful attack against southern Israel. Consequently, they altered their strategy and began targeting international shipping companies in the Red Sea, aiming to exert pressure on the international community to halt the Gaza conflict. However, this approach may be flawed, since it inadvertently prompted the United States and other global powers to retaliate by targeting Houthi assets in Yemen.” — Joe Truzman, Senior Research Analyst at FDD’s Long War Journal

U.S., UK Act to Deter Houthi Attacks on Ships

The U.S. and UK airstrikes on the Houthis on January 11 came as a counterattack to two months of Houthi assaults on shipping in the Red Sea. “These strikes are in direct response to unprecedented Houthi attacks against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea—including the use of anti-ship ballistic missiles for the first time in history,” the White House said in a statement. The 27 Houthi attacks on shipping have affected more than 50 countries. “More than 2,000 ships have been forced to divert thousands of miles to avoid the Red Sea—which can cause weeks of delays in product shipping times,” the statement noted.

Houthis Back Hamas in Gaza

The Houthis support Hamas and claim their attacks are in response to the war in Gaza. The first Houthi attack occurred on October 19, when the Houthis launched cruise missiles and drones targeting Israel. A U.S. Navy warship in the Red Sea intercepted the attack. The Houthis continued their attacks in late October and expanded their assaults, hijacking a ship in November and vowing to blockade all ships linked to Israel transiting the Red Sea.

Iran Seizes Oil Tanker Off Coast of Oman,” FDD Flash Brief

U.S., UK Shoot Down Largest Houthi Missile and Drone Barrage in Red Sea,” FDD Flash Brief

China’s Largest Shipping Company Suspends Transports to Israel Due to Houthi Attacks,” FDD Flash Brief


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War Military and Political Power U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy