U.S. Launches Strikes in Yemen Against Houthi Militant Assets
In a continued effort to counter Houthi aggression, the U.S. military executed a series of targeted strikes in Yemen on Thursday, dismantling a ground control station and neutralizing 10 drones. This operation marks the latest response to Houthi attacks on commercial and Navy vessels in the Red Sea.
The strikes, conducted in self-defense, aimed at eliminating imminent threats posed by the Houthi-controlled assets to both merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships in the region, according to a statement from U.S. Central Command. The action is intended to safeguard freedom of navigation and enhance the safety of international waters for U.S. military and merchant fleets.
Further engagements unfolded as Central Command reported successfully repelling a Houthi drone over the Gulf of Aden and intercepting an explosive sea drone approaching the Red Sea’s international shipping lane. Two Houthi missiles, apparently targeting a cargo ship, veered off course and fell into the water, as stated in a social media post by CENTCOM.
The Houthi militant group initiated a campaign of missile and drone attacks on Red Sea shipping lanes in mid-November, leading to diversions of cargo vessels and increased shipping costs. Despite joint U.S.-U.K. attacks on Houthi military targets since January 11, the rebel group persists in its hostilities.
In related developments:
Israeli airstrikes were reported across Gaza on Thursday, with operations targeting a Hamas compound in the north, eliminating militants in central Gaza, and destroying a long-range missile launcher in Khan Younis.
The European Union plans to launch a naval mission in the Red Sea within the next three weeks to protect commercial ships from Houthi attacks.
Over 100 Palestinians previously detained in Israel were released into Gaza on Thursday, according to CNN, citing the Gaza Crossings Authority.
Biden Imposes Sanctions on Israeli Settlers for West Bank Violence
To address escalating violence in the West Bank, President Joe Biden imposed financial sanctions on Thursday against four Israeli settlers involved in attacks on Palestinians. The unidentified individuals are barred from entering the U.S., accessing U.S. property, or receiving support from U.S. citizens. The sanctions aim to deter actions undermining peace, security, and stability in the West Bank, such as assaults on Palestinian civilians and destruction of property.
In the four months of the ongoing conflict, 370 Palestinians, including 94 children, have been killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with the majority attributed to Israeli forces, as reported by the U.N. The move is part of Biden’s efforts to quell violence in the region and promote a two-state solution.
U.S. Plans “Multitiered” Response to Jordan Drone Attack
Following a drone attack in Jordan that claimed the lives of three U.S. service members, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin revealed the U.S. is planning a “multitiered” response. Indicating potential strikes across several sites over days, the Pentagon attributes the attack to Kataib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia faction under the Islamic Resistance in Iraq.
The proposed retaliation, approved by the Pentagon, includes strikes against targets in Syria and Iraq, targeting Iranian personnel and facilities. The timing will depend partly on weather conditions, as reported by CBS News.
Israel’s Construction of Buffer Zone Sparks Disagreement with U.S.
Despite U.S. objections, Israel continues to demolish buildings along the Gaza border, aiming to establish a buffer zone. Satellite photos and expert analysis indicate ongoing efforts to create a “temporary security buffer zone.” Such a zone, extending over half a mile along the border, could cover 23 square miles of Gaza’s territory.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken reaffirmed the U.S. stance, stating, “We do not support any diminution of the territory of Gaza,” while Israeli leaders argue the zone would prevent future attacks.
UNRWA Faces Shutdown Amid Funding Suspension
The U.N.’s Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, may be forced to shut down operations by the end of February if funding is not restored, warns Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini. Funding from the U.S. and other nations was suspended after Israel provided intelligence implicating UNRWA employees in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.
Acknowledging the critical role of UNRWA, the Biden administration urges a U.N. investigation and appropriate measures. The accused UNRWA workers have been terminated, and the U.N. is conducting an inquiry.
Gaza’s Long-Term Economic Impact Discussed at UN
A preliminary U.N. assessment reveals that even with immediate post-war reconstruction efforts, Gaza’s GDP per capita may take 70 years to return to prewar levels. The war led to a 24% decline in Gaza’s annual GDP in 2023, and slow economic recovery is anticipated. The International Labor Organization estimates a 61% loss of employment in Gaza by the end of 2023, with unemployment near 80% in December.
Blinken’s Fifth Trip to the Middle East Amid Ongoing Negotiations
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to embark on his fifth trip to the Middle East, focusing on hostage release negotiations, postwar governance in Gaza, and increased aid for the region. The active negotiations aim to address growing concerns of a wider conflict, with ongoing discussions between Israel and Hamas and the rejection of key Hamas demands by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.