‘Simply Not Going To Be Messed With’: US Planning For Houthi Retaliation, Pentagon Official Says

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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The Iran-backed Houthis are likely to retaliate for strikes the U.S. and United Kingdom conducted on dozens of targets in Yemen the rebels used to launch attacks on commercial shipping and U.S. military vessels, a top Pentagon military officer said Friday.

Neither the U.S. nor the Houthis yet know the extent of the damage from Thursday evening’s bombardment, Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, who heads the Joint Staff’s operations directorate, said on a call with reporters. But, Sims said it’s “within the DNA” of the Houthis to continue attacks that do not bring them any immediate benefit despite realizing that the U.S. will not relent in efforts to secure freedom in international waters.

“My guess is that the Houthis are trying to figure things out on the ground and trying to determine what capabilities still exist for them. As you know, their rhetoric has been pretty strong and pretty high. I would expect that they will attempt some sort of retaliation,” Sims said. (RELATED: Biden Issues Written Statement After US Bombs Houthis In Third Straight Day Without Public Event)

U.S. aircraft, warships and one submarine fired 15o of various kinds of munitions at dozens of targets in 28 locations, Sims said. After striking more than 60 targets, including radars, missile launch sites and storage facilities, munitions depots and other targets at 16 locations, the U.S. conducted a second round of strikes on 12 more targets, Sims said.

The Houthis launched a ballistic missile at a commercial vessel Friday after the strikes, Sims confirmed. The missile missed its target but demonstrates the group’s persistence in attempting to shut down trade through the critical waterway, according to Sims.

“We know that they have fired at least one missile in retaliation,” Sims said.

Although the Houthis have claimed their attacks only target ships heading toward Israeli ports or linked to Israel and conducted in opposition to the war on Hamas in Gaza, a senior Biden administration official noted Thursday that targets have been indiscriminate.

Tehran has provided the Houthis with funding, training and weapons the group has used to launch attacks on international maritime transit. The Houthis take direction from Iran, Sims said.

Iran should realize that continued conflict in the region “is not advantageous to them,” he said. “The hope would be that any real thought of retaliation is based on a clear understanding that you know, we simply are not going to be messed with here.”

“I don’t think they would want us to strike,” Sims said. “If you were operating a ballistic missile launcher last night, you certainly didn’t want us to strike.”

Sims expressed optimism that the Houthis no longer have the capability to carry out complex operations, such as one Tuesday involving multiple U.S. warships downing 24 drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles in a single attack.

“I know we have degraded capability, I don’t believe that they would be able to execute the same way they did the other day, but we will see,” he said.

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