The Houthi attacks and US strikes are raising concerns about a wider conflict in the Middle East

A Houthi military helicopter flies over the cargo ship Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea in this photo released on Nov. 20, 2023.

Houthi Military Media | Via Reuters

Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched fresh attacks on cargo ships in the Red Sea, while the US carried out strikes on targets in Iraq, amid fears that the war in the Gaza Strip could engulf the Middle East.

The US military retaliated against three facilities in Iraq linked to Kataib Hezbollah on Monday, the Pentagon said, after a one-way drone strike injured three US employees. Militant group aligned with Iran.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement that there is no “higher priority” than protecting US troops and interests.

“While we do not seek an escalation of conflict in the region, we are committed and fully prepared to take further necessary steps to protect our people and our facilities,” Austin added.

The Iraqi government criticized the US strikes as an “unacceptable violation of Iraqi sovereignty” and stressed that attacks by armed groups against military bases housing advisers to the US-led coalition are considered hostile acts and violate Iraqi sovereignty, according to a statement. government. at Reuters

Tension continued in the Red Sea. On Tuesday, Houthi fighters, also backed by Iran, launched a new drone attack against a container ship operated by MSC bound for Pakistan.

“The naval forces of the Yemeni Armed Forces carried out a targeting operation against the merchant ship “MSC UNITED” with appropriate naval missiles,” Yahya Sare’e, a spokesman for the Yemeni Armed Forces, said in a post on X social. media platform.

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“The Armed Forces of Yemen confirm their continued support and solidarity with the Palestinian people, in accordance with their religious, moral and humanitarian duty.”

The US Central Command also announced on its social media platform that a US F/A-18 destroyer and fighter jet shot down 12 attack drones, three anti-ship ballistic missiles and two land attack cruise missiles fired by Houthi fighters over the southern Red Sea in a 10-hour period on Tuesday. There was no damage to ships in the area and no injuries reported, the Pentagon said.

Drone and missile attacks by the militant group in recent weeks have disrupted shipping through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, a narrow waterway through which about 10 percent of world trade passes.

“The Yemeni Armed Forces confirm the continuation of their operations in the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea against Israeli ships or those heading to the ports of occupied Palestine until food and medicine enter the Gaza Strip,” Sare’e added. The Houthis have previously called for solidarity in the Palestinian cause.

Analysts have previously warned of the risk of the Israel-Hamas conflict spreading to the wider Middle East, amid hostilities by Iran-backed groups such as Hezbollah, the Houthis and the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

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