The United States and the United Kingdom attacked more than 70 targets of Yemen’s Houthi militias in the early hours of Friday. They used at least 28 American F/A-18 fighter-bombers and British Eurofighter Typhoons, in addition to at least 80 Tomahawk cruise missiles, each with a warhead containing 450 kilos of explosives, launched from 10 ships and a submarine. American nuclear bomb and a British ship.

With all this material they simultaneously bombed several cities in Yemen. The bombardment, which, according to the United States Department of Defense, only lasted about 40 minutes, targeted radars, depots and missile and drone launch centers with which the Houthis had carried out at least 27 attacks against merchant ships of third countries since the war broke out in October between the terrorist group Hamas – an ally of Iran and, therefore, of the Houthis – and Israel, which is supported by the US and most of the West. It is the first US attack against the Houthis since October 2016, when Barack Obama was president.

The bombings are a new escalation in a war that threatens to spread beyond Gaza. Until now, Joe Biden’s Government had tried by all means to prevent the Gaza conflict from spreading, and had been responding in a very limited way to the more than 100 attacks that its Armed Forces have suffered in Iraq and Syria at the hands of of pro-Iranian militias.

In fact, White House Homeland Security spokesman John Kirby said yesterday: “We are not interested in a war with Yemen.” Kirby, thus, seemed to play the role of ‘good cop’; that of ‘bad cop’ had corresponded to the US president himself, Joe Biden, who in the hours after the attack, on Thursday, declared: “I will not hesitate to take similar measures again,” if the Houthis continue attacking merchant ships sailing through International waters.

According to the White House, more than 50 States have been affected by these actions, either because the attacked ships carried their flag, cargo produced or destined for those nations, or were crewed by nationals of those countries. More than 10% of the world’s maritime cargo traffic passes through the Bab El-Mandeb Strait, at the entrance to the Red Sea, where most of the attacks have occurred.

The bombings took place a few hours after the Houthis launched a new ballistic missile, which was intercepted, against a merchant ship sailing through international waters. The use of ballistic missiles – which describe an arc before falling on their target and have greater destructive power – to attack ships is a novelty in this war, since until now only China and Iran had tested these types of weapons, and always in times of peace. Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a member of the Houthis’ Supreme Political Council, said that the attacks by the United States and the United Kingdom against Yemen are “barbaric.”

The attack took place when US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had just arrived in Washington from a trip to the Middle East. They also arrived with less than 100 hours left before the US presidential campaign begins, with the primaries in the state of Iowa.

The reaction in the US reflects the political fragmentation of the country. While the Republican opposition, which has denied Biden bread and salt since he came to power, has supported him and has only regretted that the bombings had not been more intense, the left wing of the Democratic Party has harshly criticized the president for which he considers one more step for the US entry into the Gaza war and a new escalation in Washington’s support for Israel.

“Our actions have been in self-defense, to protect ourselves from future attacks against our warships that are carrying out their lawful mission,” declared British Undersecretary of Defense James Heappey. “Of course we have to ensure that the conflict does not cause a regional escalation.”

Heappey described the attacks as “proportionate”, in response to the Red Sea crisis and to enable the “free movement” of commercial ships. Several Labor MPs openly criticized the operation and demanded the appearance in Parliament of Rishi Sunak, who clarified that London participated to send a “strong signal.”

The premier had convened an emergency cabinet on Thursday night to authorize the joint operation with the North American army. Hours after the attacks in Yemen, Sunak traveled to Ukraine to announce with President Zelensky a new military aid package of 2.8 billion euros.

France gave its implicit backing to the US-led military action against the Houthis by underscoring its support for the UN Security Council resolution authorizing a response to the attacks.

The United States, the United Kingdom and eight of their allies assured in a joint statement that the objective of the bombings “continues to be to de-escalate tensions” and “restore stability in the Red Sea.” The eight allies were Bahrain, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, New Zealand and South Korea.

“The actions demonstrate a shared commitment to freedom of navigation, international trade and the defense of seafarers’ lives against illegal and unjustifiable attacks,” the 10 countries declared in the joint text.

Hamas assured for its part that the bombings in Yemen will have regional “repercussions”, while Iran warned that the attacks by the United States and the United Kingdom against Yemen fuel insecurity and instability in the region, calling on the international community to act to prevent the conflict from spreading.

“These arbitrary attacks will have no other result than fueling insecurity and instability in the region,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Naser Kananí said in a statement. That country, however, did not take any retaliatory military measures nor did it increase its naval presence in the conflict region. The most spectacular reaction was that of the always histrionic president of Turkey, a NATO member country, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who stated that the United States and Great Britain are trying to turn the Red Sea “into a sea of ​​blood.”

Saudi Arabia, which has led an aerial bombing campaign against the Houthis since 2015, called for “restraint and avoidance of escalation.” The official Saudi press agency said the kingdom was watching the operation with “great concern.” Riyadh is a key ally of Washington and London, which are the kingdom’s two largest arms suppliers, and allowed the planes that participated in the mission, which had taken off from Cyprus (the British), to pass through its airspace without problems. and Qatar and Bahrain (the latter, almost a Saudi protectorate).

From Iraq – a country believed to be the next to be attacked to send another “strong signal” – an advisor to the Iraqi prime minister warned that the West is expanding the conflict between Israel and Hamas and increasing tensions in the region, in based on information from the state news agency (INA).

This Friday, the Houthi rebels managed to successfully call mass demonstrations in the areas under their control and the conflict caused a slight increase in the price of oil by 0.79% to $77.41 per barrel of Brent. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) rose 0.91% to $72.02.

Russia (one of the beneficiaries of the West turning its gaze towards the East and not on the war in Ukraine) pointed out that the attacks against Yemen are another example of “total disregard for international law.”