The Houthi rebels said the US-led strikes killed 5 people and wounded 6 others

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Yemen's Houthi rebels vowed a tough retaliation Friday. American and British strikes against themGaza raises the prospect of a wider conflict in a region already beset by Israel's war.

Bombing – Launched in response to the latest A campaign of drone and missile strikes At least five people were killed and six others wounded – on merchant ships in the critical Red Sea, the Houthis said. The US said it had struck more than 60 targets in 16 different locations in Yemen's Houthi-held areas.

Bombings at several bases held by Iranian-backed rebels have lit up the skies, forcing the world to refocus on Yemen's years-long war that began when the Houthis seized the country's capital.

Since November, the rebels have targeted ships in the Red Sea, claiming retaliation Israel Attacks Hamas in Gaza. But they often target ships with weak or no clear ties to Israel, affecting shipping on a key route for global trade and energy exports.

Although the Biden administration and its allies have tried Peaceful tension in the Middle East For weeks and to prevent any wider conflict, the strikes threatened to flare up.

Saudi Arabia – which backs the exiled government fighting the Houthis – has quickly sought to distance itself from the attacks as it seeks to maintain a delicate deterrence with Iran and a ceasefire in Yemen.

The Houthis' military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Yahya Sari said in a recorded speech that the strikes “will not go unanswered or unpunished.”

A map showing Yemen with its capital, Sana'a. (AP Photo)

He said five people from the rebels' military forces were killed and six others wounded in attacks on areas of Yemen under their control. Although the Houthis said at least five bases, including airfields, had been hit, it was unclear how extensive the damage was.

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US Air Force Central Command said the strikes focused on Houthi command and control nodes, ammunition depots, launch systems, production facilities and air defense radar systems. The strikes involved more than 100 precision-guided munitions, including air-to-air missiles and ship- and submarine-launched Tomahawk surface-to-surface attack missiles.

The United Kingdom said it struck a base in Bani that the Houthis allegedly used to launch drones.

Meanwhile, the US Treasury Department announced on Friday that it had imposed sanctions on two companies in Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates for allegedly sending Iranian goods on behalf of Iran-based Houthi financier Saeed al-Jamal. All four vessels owned by the companies were identified as blocked assets.

Hussein al-Ezzi, a Houthi official at their foreign ministry, said, “The United States and Britain must undoubtedly be prepared to pay a heavy price and bear all the worst consequences of this blatant aggression.”

The Red Sea is an important waterway, and attacks there have severely disrupted global trade. Benchmark Brent crude rose about 4% on Friday to trade above $80 a barrel. Tesla, meanwhile, said that Temporary suspension Overproduction at its German factory due to attacks on the Red Sea.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy acknowledged an attack on a ship in the far reaches of the Indian Ocean just days earlier — a move that could signal Iran's willingness to attack ships as part of a broader maritime campaign in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Separately in Tehran on Thursday Another tanker was impounded.

In Saada, a Houthi stronghold in northwestern Yemen, hundreds of people rallied Friday to denounce the United States and Israel. Another drew thousands in the capital, Sana'a.

Yemen has been targeted by US military operations for the past four US presidents. A campaign of drone strikes by President George W. Targeting al-Qaeda's local affiliate began under Bush, a series of attacks that continued under the Biden administration. Meanwhile, the US has launched strikes and other military operations amid the ongoing war in Yemen.

The war began in 2014 when the Houthis entered Sana'a. A Saudi-led coalition including the United Arab Emirates launched a war in 2015 in support of Yemen's government-in-exile, turning the conflict into a regional one as Iran provided arms and other support to the Houthis. Support.

However, the fighting has subsided as the Houthis have maintained their grip on territory they hold. In March, Saudi Arabia reached a China-brokered deal to resume relations with Iran.

However, an overall agreement has yet to be reached, prompting Saudi Arabia to express “grave concern” about the airstrikes on Friday.

“While the kingdom emphasizes the importance of safeguarding the security and stability of the Red Sea region… it calls for restraint and refraining from expansion,” its foreign ministry said in a statement.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Khanani condemned the attack in a statement.

“Spontaneous attacks will have no effect other than fueling insecurity and instability in the region,” he said.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning called on countries not to escalate tensions in the Red Sea. And Russia condemned Friday's strikes as “illegal in the eyes of international law.”

Oman, a longtime regional interlocutor with the US and the West along with Iran, condemned the airstrikes. It said “it is of great concern that Israel continues its brutal war and blockade of the Gaza Strip with impunity or accountability”.

Meanwhile on Friday, the US Navy confirmed the attack a few days earlier near the coasts of India and Sri Lanka. The chemical tanker Pacific Gold was hit by a drone in an “Iranian one-way attack” by the Navy on January 4, causing some damage to the ship, but no injuries.

Pacific Gold is managed by Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping, which is ultimately controlled by Israeli billionaire Aidan Ofer. Iran has not claimed responsibility for the attack.

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Associated Press writers Bassem Mroue in Beirut, Jill Lawless in London, Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, and Tara Copp and Fatima Hussein in Washington contributed to this report.

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