SANA’A/ DOHA /JERUSALEM/ CAIRO: Yemen’s Houthi militia held a funeral on Saturday for at least 17 militants killed during joint US-British airstrikes targeting the Iran-backed militants, the Houthi-run Saba news agency said.
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 said in its coverage of the funerals.
The US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Saturday its forces conducted self-defense 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 U.S. 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 as turmoil from the Israel-Hamas war spreads through the region.
Earlier, Israeli forces geared up on Friday for a ground assault on Hamas in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of people displaced by violence further north are trapped in desperate conditions.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the military had been told to come up with a plan to evacuate civilians but aid agencies warned that a military offensive in such a densely populated area could end up killing large numbers of innocent people.
“There is a sense of growing anxiety, growing panic in Rafah because basically people have no idea where to go,” said Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA.
US President Joe Biden said on Thursday Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas militants was “over the top” and Washington said it would not support any military operation mounted in Rafah without due consideration for civilians.
More than a million people driven southwards by four months of Israeli bombing of Gaza are packed into Rafah and surrounding areas on the coastal enclave’s border with Egypt, which has reinforced the frontier, fearing an exodus.
Netanyahu’s office said four Hamas battalions were in Rafah and Israel could not achieve its goal of eliminating the Islamist militants while they remained there. Civilians should be evacuated from the combat zone, it said. (Int’l News Desk)