Timeline: Houthi Attacks and U.S. Responses

Tensions soared between the Houthi militia in Yemen and the United States after Houthis seized the crew of a commercial shipping vessel on Nov. 19, 2023. Houthis launched attacks–using drones, missiles, and small boats–on commercial shipping and naval warships in the Red Sea, one of the world’s most important waterways for international commerce. The Houthis initially claimed that they were targeting commercial ships on their way to or linked to Israel to show solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. The United States responded on December 18 by launching Operation Prosperity Guardian, a coalition of more than 20 countries with a mandate to protect international shipping. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III said its mission was “to jointly address security challenges in the southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, with the goal of ensuring freedom of navigation for all countries and bolstering regional security and prosperity.”

Houthi leader Abdul Malik al Houthi (left)

On January 11, 2024, the United States mobilized Operation Poseidon Archer, a separate coalition willing to conduct offensive operations to degrade Houthi military capabilities. It included the United Kingdom, Australia, Bahrain, and the Netherlands. “It is something that CENTCOM has named in terms of multilateral strikes and dynamic strikes within Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen,” Deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters on January 25. The coalition launched more than 10 airstrikes on Houthi missile, radar, and storage facilities in January.

The Operation Poseidon Archer signaled that the United States would “not tolerate attacks on our personnel or allow hostile actors to imperil freedom of navigation,” President Joe Biden said on January 11. “I will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary.” Biden also repeatedly warned regional players backed by Iran, including the Houthis, against widening the Middle East war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. But the attacks persisted. Houthi leaders claimed that U.S. pressure would not change their campaign in the Red Sea, through which about 30 percent of the world’s commercial shipping passes en route to the Suez Canal.

 

October 2023

October 19: Houthis fired three land-attack cruise missiles and several drones from Yemen, reportedly targeting Israel. The USS Carney intercepted the missiles and drones.

October 31: Houthis fired an unspecified number of ballistic missiles and drones at Israel. The Houthis vowed to “continue to carry out qualitative strikes with missiles and drones until the Israeli aggression stops.” Israel intercepted all of the aerial threats, which included one surface-to-surface missile.

 

November 2023

November 8: Houthis shot down a U.S. drone. They claimed that the drone, an MQ-9 Reaper, was in Yemeni airspace.

November 14: Houthis launched a surface-to-surface missile towards Eilat, Israel. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) intercepted the missile before it entered Israeli airspace.

November 15: The USS Thomas Hudner intercepted a drone in the Red Sea that had been launched from Yemen.

November 19:  Houthis seized the Galaxy Leader, a British-owned, Japanese-operated cargo ship, in the Red Sea and took 25 crew members hostage. They claimed that the vessel was linked to Israel and a “legitimate target.” The British company that owns the ship had links to Abraham Ungar, an Israeli businessman, although the ship was leased to Nippon Yusen (NYK), a Japanese company. The Houthis vowed to continue targeting Israel-linked vessels until the Israeli campaign in Gaza ended.

November 22: The USS Thomas Hudner intercepted several drones launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. No injuries or damage were reported. The same day, the IDF claimed to have shot down a Houthi cruise missile over the Red Sea.

November 26: Houthis fired two ballistic missiles at the USS Mason while it was responding to a distress call from the Central Park, a commercial tanker operated by Zodiac Maritime, an international shipping company owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer.

November 29: The USS Carney intercepted an Iranian-produced drone launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.

 

December 2023

December 1: Israel struck an arms depot in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital. The Houthis denied the report by Saudi media.

December 3: Houthis fired ballistic missiles at three commercial ships in the Red Sea–the Unity Explorer, a British-owned and -operated bulk carrier; Number 9, a British-owned and -operated container ship; and Sophie II, a Japanese-owned and -operated bulk carrier. The USS Carney responded to their distress calls. It also shot down three drones; the target of the drones was unclear.

December 7: The U.S. Department of Treasury sanctioned 13 individuals for providing funds to the Houthis.

December 11: Houthis fired an anti-ship cruise missile that hit the M/T Strinda, a Norwegian-flagged commercial tanker, in the Bab al-Mandab Strait of the Red Sea. The USS Mason responded to its mayday call. 

December 13: Two missiles fired from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen narrowly missed the Ardmore Encounter, a Marshall Islands-flagged tanker. The USS Mason shot down a drone during the incident.

December 14: Houthis launched a missile at the M/V Maersk Gibraltar, a Hong Kong-flagged cargo vessel, after firing a ballistic missile north of the Bab al-Mandab.

December 15: Houthis struck two Liberian-flagged tankers in the Red Sea. A Houthi drone struck the M/V Al Jasra, which was set ablaze. Houthis also fired two ballistic missiles toward the Bab al-Mandab Strait. One hit the M/V Palatium III. The USS Mason responded to the second incident.

December 16: The USS Carney intercepted 14 drones that had been launched in a wave from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. The British HMS Diamond also shot down a drone.

December 18: The United States established Operation Prosperity Guardian, a multinational initiative focused on security in the Red Sea. It included the United States, Britain, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the Seychelles, and Spain. Houthis also claimed to have fired drones at the MSC Clara and Swan Atlantic, two commercial vessels.

December 19: The United States, European Union, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Australia, the Bahamas, Japan, Liberia, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, and others jointly condemned Houthi maritime aggression. The 44 signatories represented the countries that flagged the most commercial vessels transiting the Red Sea.

December 23: The USS Laboon intercepted four drones from Houthi-controlled Yemen. It also responded to distress calls from the M/V Blaamanen, a Norwegian-flagged tanker, and M/V Saibaba, an Indian-flagged tanker that had been targeted by Houthi drones.

December 26: Houthis claimed responsibility for an attack on the United VIII, a commercial tanker. They also launched a drone on southern Israel, which was intercepted over the Red Sea.

December 28: The USS Mason intercepted one drone and one anti-ship ballistic missile fired by Houthis over the Red Sea. The U.S. Treasury sanctioned one individual and three entities for facilitating Iranian “financial assistance” to the Houthis.

December 31: Houthis deployed on four small boats attacked the Maersk Hangzhou, a Singapore-flagged container ship, and attempted to board the vessel. Helicopters from the USS Eisenhower responded and sank three of the four boats, killing their crews.

January 2024

January 1: The Alborz, an Iranian warship, entered the Red Sea. Its mission was not specified.

January 2: Houthis fired two anti-ship ballistic missiles into the southern Red Sea. No commercial ships reported damage.

January 3: The United States and 13 partners issued a joint statement warning the Houthis to cease maritime aggression or face a military response. Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, and the United Kingdom joined the statement.

January 4: Houthis launched a drone that came within a few miles of U.S. Navy and commercial vessels before detonating in the Red Sea. The incident marked the first use by the Houthis of an unmanned surface vessel.

January 6: The USS Laboon intercepted a drone that had been launched from Houthi-controlled Yemen.

January 9: Houthis launched a large-scale attack, consisting of 18 drones, two anti-ship cruise missiles, and one anti-ship ballistic missile. They were all shot down by U.S. and British forces.

January 11: U.S. Navy SEALs boarded and seized a sailboat transporting weapons from Iran to the Houthis. The operation, off the coast of Somalia, marked the first seizure of Iranian weapons since the Houthis began their Red Sea attacks in November 2023. 

January 11-12: The United States and United Kingdom – with support from the Netherlands, Canada, Bahrain, and Australia – launched more than 150 precision-guided munitions strikes on 60 targets, including radars, missile and drone launch sites, and weapons storage facilities in Yemen. The joint operation was dubbed “Operation Poseidon Archer.”

January 12: Houthis mistakenly fired a missile at a Panamanian-flagged tanker carrying Russian oil in a missile attack. The USS Carney conducted a strike on a Houthi radar in Yemen. The U.S. Treasury sanctioned two companies–based in Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates–that have shipped Iranian commodities to the Houthis.

January 13: U.S. President Joe Biden said that Washington had delivered a back-channel message to Iran about Houthi maritime aggression.

January 15: Houthis fired an anti-ship ballistic missile and struck the M/V Gibraltar Eagle, a U.S.-owned and-operated bulk carrier flagged by the Marshall Islands.

January 16: U.S. forces destroyed four anti-ship ballistic missiles that were prepared to launch from Houthi-controlled Yemen. Houthis launched an anti-ship ballistic missile into the southern Red Sea and struck the M/V Zografia, a Maltese-flagged bulk carrier.

January 17: Houthis attacked the M/V Genco Picardy, a U.S.-owned and -operated bulk carrier flagged by the Marshall Islands. The drone crashed into the vessel southeast of Aden. The same day, U.S. forces struck 14 missile sites in Houthi-controlled Yemen. The United States formally named the Houthis a ‘Special Designated Global Terrorist Organization,’ which was scheduled to take effect on February 16, 2024.

January 18: U.S. forces struck two Houthi anti-ship missiles that were being prepared for launch in Yemen. Houthis fired two anti-ship missiles at the M/V Chem Ranger, a U.S.-owned and Greek-operated bulk carrier flagged by the Marshall Islands. In a televised speech, Houthi leader Abdul Malek al-Houthi thanked God “for this great blessing and great honor — for us to be in a direct confrontation with Israel and America.” He claimed that pressure would not change the Houthi stance.

January 19: U.S. forces destroyed three Houthi missiles and launchers in Yemen as they were primed to attack commercial and military vessels in the Red Sea.

January 20: U.S. forces destroyed a Houthi anti-ship missile aimed at the Gulf of Aden.

January 21: U.S. Central Command confirmed the death of two Navy SEALs who were swept into the Arabian Sea on January 11 as the SEALs seized and boarded a sailboat transporting Iranian missile parts and weapons to the Houthis.

January 22: Vice Admiral Brad Cooper claimed that Iran was “very directly involved” in the Houthis’ Red Sea attacks. The United States denied a Houthi claim that they had attacked the M/V Ocean Jazz, a U.S.-flagged bulk carrier.

January 23: U.S. forces struck two anti-ship missiles in Yemen as they were prepared for launch at targets in the Red Sea.

January 24: Iran reportedly informed Washington via back-channels that it is not seeking a war. Houthis fired three ballistic missiles at the M/V Maersk Detroit, a  U.S.-flagged, -owned and -operated container ship. The USS Gravely intercepted two of the missiles; the third landed in the Red Sea. Houthis ordered U.S. and British staff of Sanaa-based humanitarian organizations to leave Yemen within a month.

January 25: The U.S. Treasury, jointly with the United Kingdom, sanctioned four Houthi military officials. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan flew to Thailand to discuss the Houthi attacks with Chinese officials.

January 26: Houthis fired a ballistic missile toward the USS Carney, which shot down the missile. Houthis attacked the M/V Marlin Luanda, a Marshall Islands-flagged and Bermuda-owned tanker, with an anti-ship ballistic missile. The attack set the ship on fire, but the USS Carney–along with French and Indian vessels–extinguished the blaze.

January 27: The United States struck a Houthi anti-ship missile aimed at the Red Sea. A British warship, the HMS Diamond, repelled a Houthi attack and shot down one drone over the Red Sea.

January 29: The Pentagon rejected a Houthi claim that its militants had attacked the USS Lewis B. Puller.

January 30: Houthis fired one anti-ship cruise missile toward the Red Sea. The USS Gravely intercepted the missile, and there was no damage.

January 31: The United States struck a Houthi surface-to-air missile that was being prepared for launch and was considered “an imminent threat” to U.S. aircraft operating in the region.

February 1: U.S. forces shot down one drone over the Gulf of Aden. Later, U.S. forces intercepted a sail drone headed toward international shipping lanes in the Red Sea. Houthis fired one ballistic missile at the Koi, a Liberian-flagged and Bermuda-owned container ship.

February 2: Houthis shot a ballistic missile at southern Israel. The IDF intercepted the missile over the Red Sea. The same day, the U.S.S. Carney shot down one drone over the Gulf of Aden, U.S. forces struck four Houthi drones in Yemen, and the U.S.S. Laboon shot down seven drones over the RRed Sea. There were no injuries or damage reported.

February 3: U.S. forces destroyed six cruise missiles in Houthi-controlled Yemen. 

The United States and United Kingdom–with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, and New Zealand–struck 36 Houthi targets in 13 locations in Yemen. The strikes targeted storage facilities, missile launchers, air defense systems, and radars. “This collective action sends a clear message to the Houthis that they will continue to bear further consequences if they do not end their illegal attacks on international shipping and naval vessels,” said Lloyd Austin, U.S. Secretary of Defense. 

February 4: U.S. forces conducted three air strikes in Houthi-controlled Yemen, destroying five anti-ship cruise missiles and one land attack cruise missile.

February 5: U.S. forces struck two Houthi unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) in Yemen. 

February 6: Houthifired six anti-ship ballistic missiles toward the Red Sea. Three missiles targeted the M/V Star Nasia, a Marshall Islands-flagged, Greek-owned and -operated bulk carrier. The USS Laboon intercepted one of the missiles. Another three missiles targeted the M/V Morning Tide, a Barbados-flagged, British-owned cargo ship.

February 8: U.S. forces struck four Houthi unmanned surface vehicles (USV) and seven Houthi anti-ship cruise missiles in Yemen. 

February 9: U.S. forces destroyed two Houthi unmanned surface vehicles (USV), four Houthi anti-ship cruise missiles, and one Houthi land attack cruise missile in Yemen. 

February 10: U.S. forces struck two Houthi unmanned surface vehicles (USV) and thrree Houthi anti-ship cruise missiles north of Al Hudaydah, Yemen.

February 12: Houthis fired two missiles toward the M/V Star Iris, a cargo ship owned by a Greek company flagged in the Marshall Islands. The M/V Star Iris received minor damages but continued its voyage to Iran after the strike.

February 13: U.S. forces destroyed an anti-ship cruise missile in Houthi-controlled Yemen as it was prepared to launch. Later that day, Houthis launched an anti-ship ballistic missile into the Gulf of Aden. U.S. forces did not intercept the missile because it was not projected to hit any ships. 

 

Some of the information in this article was originally published on February 1, 2024.