The Tuesday attacks were on a much smaller scale and “dynamic” in nature, meaning they were not pre-planned and rather taken in self-defense against missiles that presented an imminent threat to international shipping, one of the officials said. All of the officials were granted anonymity to speak about a sensitive operation before an official announcement.
U.S. forces on Tuesday observed the Houthis preparing to launch the four ballistic missiles, presumably against ships in the Red Sea. The head of U.S. Central Command then ordered U.S. forces to take out the threat, according to one of the officials. Reuters first reported the new round of strikes.
Later on Tuesday, the Houthis fired a ballistic missile at a commercial vessel that was transiting the southern Red Sea, according to three of the officials. The missile hit but did not sink the ship, which was Maltese-flagged, Greek-owned-and-operated and had been sailing from Vietnam, according to two of the officials.
While the Houthis have vowed to respond to the U.S.-led strikes last week, two other U.S. officials said they estimated those coalition strikes had degraded the militants’ ability to continue attacking international shipping by roughly 20-30 percent by destroying air defenses and weapons storage and launch facilities. The New York Times first reported the assessment.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday that the administration has expected counterstrikes from the Houthis.
“We did not say when we launched our attacks, they’re gonna end once and for all,” he said at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland.
Meanwhile, U.S. Navy SEALs on Monday seized and later sank a small boat off Somalia smuggling weapons parts from Iran to resupply the Houthis,
Central Command announced. The items seized included Iranian-made ballistic missiles and cruise missile components, including propulsion, guidance and warheads.
The interdiction is the first seizure of lethal, Iran-supplied conventional weapons to the Houthis since the beginning of this phase of Houthi attacks in November, and the first time the Navy has seized advanced Iran-made ballistic missiles and cruise missile components since November 2019.
During the interdiction, two Navy SEALs involved in the operation were lost at sea, one of the U.S. officials said.
“We are conducting an exhaustive search for our missing teammates,” Central Command chief Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla said.
Alexander Ward contributed to this report.