Canberra, Jan 12 :Australia on Friday confirmed its support to the US and UK airstrikes targeting sites belonging to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, in response to the Iran-backed militia’s continued attacks against commercial shipping in the Red Sea.
Addressing reporters here, Defence Minister Richard Marles said that Australian personnel were present in operational headquarters during the strikes but stopped short of elaborating on the nature of their involvement, reports Xinhua news agency.
“On January 4, Australia was part of 14 countries which issued a statement warning the Houthi rebels that if they continue to attack maritime activity in the Red Sea, there would be consequences,” Marles, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, said.
“They have continued their attacks on maritime and naval assets. As a result the attacks today have occurred.”
Australia in December 2023 had rejected a request from the US to send a Royal Australian Navy warship to the Red Sea to “help secure international shipping lanes”.
The government instead committed to deploying additional Australian Defence Force officers to the 39-nation Combined Maritime Forces command in Bahrain.
The Minister’s statement came hours after the US and UK launched the airstrikes on Houthi military sites around the Yemeni capital of Sanaa before dawn on Friday.
According to the Houthi-controlled Saba news agency, strikes were also carried out in the governorates of Hodeidah, Saada, and Dhamar.
The strikes “targeted Al-Dailami air base in Sanaa, areas in Zabid District of Hodeidah province, the vicinity of the airport of Hodeidah port city, Kahlan Camp in the east of northern Saada city, and the airport of Abs district in the northwestern government of Hajjah”, it said.
At least four powerful airstrikes hit the mountains around Sanaa, shaking windows of houses and cutting off lights in many areas, residents said.
The Houthis have also evacuated many camps adjoining the residents’ neighborhoods at the centre of Sanaa.
Loaded vehicles were seen departing the camps throughout the night and Houthi fighters were also seen deployed at checkpoints along the streets.
Residents in Hodeidah said they saw the Houthis evacuate their fighters from camps in and around the coastal city.
Meanwhile, US media confirmed several airstrikes on Houthi sites across several cities in the north.
Late Thursday night, Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi warned in a televised speech that “any American aggression will not go without response”.
The allied airstrikes came hours after the Houthi fighters launched a ballistic missile at a cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden, according to the US Central Command (CENTCOM).
“This is the 27th Houthi attack on international shipping since Nov. 19,” it said in a post on X.
On Wednesday, the Houthis claimed responsibility for launching 18 bomb-laden drones and three missiles at US Navy ships stationed in the Red Sea in retaliation for the killing of 10 Houthi fighters on three small boats last week.
The US Navy said it intercepted the attack with no injuries or damage.
The attack on the cargo ship on Thursday came hours after the UN Security Council adopted a new resolution condemning the Houthi attacks on the international shipping lines, calling on the group to immediately cease attacks on commercial ships in the international maritime lanes.
The Houthis control much of northern Yemen, including the capital Sanaa and the strategic Red Sea port city of Hodeidah.
The Houthis said they only attack those Israel-linked or Israel-bound ships to press Israel to stop its war on the Palestinian enclave of the Gaza Strip.