SANAA: A total of 17 Houthi fighters were killed in US strikes, the Iran-backed Yemeni rebel group said through its official media on Saturday, following public funerals in the capital Sanaa.

“The bodies of a number of martyrs of the nation and the armed and security forces who were martyred as a result of the bombing of the American-British aggression were carried through Sanaa today in a solemn funeral procession,” Houthi official media said, listing their names.

The United States confirmed on Thursday that its military had conducted a number of strikes against missile launchers as Houthi fighters prepared to launch them against commercial shipping and US warships in the Red Sea.

The Iran-backed rebels, who control much of war-torn Yemen including the port of Hodeida, have been targeting shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden in a campaign they say is in support of Palestinians in Gaza, which has been ravaged by the Israeli attack.

Centcom says its forces conducted self-defence strikes against targets that were prepared to launch attacks against ships in the Red Sea

US and British forces have responded with strikes against the Houthis, who have since declared both countries’ interests to be legitimate targets as well.

Scores of supporters gathered at Sanaa’s Al-Shaab mosque, formerly Al-Saleh mosque, on Saturday for the funerals of the Houthis killed in the strikes.

One of the mourners, Abu Moataz Ghalib, said that he and others present remained resolute in their position on the war in Gaza.

“We convey our message through these martyrs that it is absolutely impossible for us to abandon our position, which is based on principles and faith, and which forced us to take action,” he said.

On Wednesday the Houthis’ news agency reported that the United States and Britain had hit targets in Yemen’s Hodeida province.

On Tuesday the Houthi rebels said they had struck US and British ships in two attacks in the Red Sea, causing minor damage but no casualties.

The Red Sea attacks have raised insurance premiums for shipping companies, forcing many to avoid the Red Sea, a vital route that normally carries about 12 per cent of global maritime trade.

The Houthis have launched waves of exploding drones and missiles at commercial ships since Nov 19 in what they say is a response to Israel’s military operations in Gaza, prompting Britain and the United States to start retaliatory strikes last month.

“These crimes will not discourage the Yemeni people from continuing their support and backing of their brothers in the Gaza Strip,” Saba news agency said in its coverage of the funerals.

The US Central Command (Centcom) said on Saturday its forces conducted self-defence strikes against two mobile unmanned surface vessels (USV), four mobile anti-ship cruise missiles, and one mobile land attack cruise missile (LACM) that were prepared to launch strikes against ships in the Red Sea.

“Centcom identified these missiles and USVs in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and determined they presented an imminent threat to US Navy ships and merchant vessels in the region,” it said in a statement.

“These actions will protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure for US Navy and merchant vessels.” Besides the airstrikes on Houthi targets in Yemen, the US and Britain have returned the militia to a list of terrorist groups.

The Houthi campaign has disrupted international shipping, causing some companies to suspend transits through the Red Sea and instead take the much longer, costlier journey around Africa.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2024

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