Yemen’s Houthis hold funeral for 17 militants killed in US-UK air strikes

CAIRO (Reuters) – Yemen’s Houthi militia held a funeral on Saturday for at least 17 militants killed during joint U.S.-British airstrikes targeting the Iran-backed militants, the Houthi-run Saba news agency said.

The Houthis have launched waves of exploding drones and missiles at commercial ships since Nov. 19 in what they say is a response to Israel’s military operations in Gaza, prompting Britain and the United States to start retaliatory strikes last month.

“These crimes will not discourage the Yemeni people from continuing their support and backing of their brothers in the Gaza Strip,” Saba said in its coverage of the funerals.

The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Saturday its forces conducted self-defense strikes against two mobile unmanned surface vessels (USV), four mobile anti-ship cruise missiles, and one mobile land attack cruise missile (LACM) that were prepared to launch strikes against ships in the Red Sea.

“CENTCOM identified these missiles and USVs in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and determined they presented an imminent threat to U.S. Navy ships and merchant vessels in the region,” it said in a statement. “These actions will protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure for U.S. Navy and merchant vessels.”

Besides the airstrikes on Houthi targets in Yemen, the U.S. and Britain have returned the militia to a list of terrorist groups as turmoil from the Israel-Hamas war spreads through the region.

The Houthi campaign has disrupted international shipping, causing some companies to suspend transits through the Red Sea and instead take the much longer, costlier journey around Africa.

(Reporting by Ahmed Tolba; Writing by Adam Makary; Additional reporting by Lucia Mutikani in Washington; Editing by Mark Heinrich, Helen Popper and Andrea Ricci)