October 13, 2016 - 11:40 ( Brasília )

US hits Yemen rebels with cruise missiles after failed attack on warship

The US has retaliated against Houthi rebels after two failed missile attacks on a US destroyer this week. The cruise missile strikes in Houthi-controlled areas mark the first direct US military strike on the rebels.

The US military launched cruise missiles at three coastal radar sites in areas controlled by Houthi rebels in Yemen in retaliation for failed missile strikes on a US destroyer this week, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

"These limited self-defense strikes were conducted to protect our personnel, our ships, and our freedom of navigation in this important maritime passageway," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said. "The United States will respond to any further threat to our ships and commercial traffic, as appropriate."

The US military said it assessed the radar sites were destroyed in what marks the first direct US military strike on Houthi targets in the war-torn country. 

Cook said that the strikes were authorised by US President Barack Obama at the recommendation of Defense Secretary Ash Carter and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford.

Two missiles fired from Houthi-rebel controlled territory in Yemen landed in the water in a strategic Red Sea strait where a US destroyer and a transport dock were operating, the Pentagon said earlier on Wednesday. 

The USS Mason, an Arleigh Burke class of guided missile destroyer, and the USS Ponce took defensive measures against the missiles, neither of which struck the ships or caused damage in the Bab al-Mandab Strait.

"The ship employed defensive countermeasures, and the missile did not reach USS Mason," Pentagon Cook said in a statement.

The incident, the second such missile attack on the US warships in four days, comes after Houthi rebels claimed credit for a missile attack that heavily damaged a United Arab Emirates vessel on October 1. The United Arab Emirates said the vessel was carrying humanitarian aid, but the Houthis claimed it was a warship.

The United Arab Emirates is a major participant in a Saudi-led coalition against Houthi-rebels and forces loyal to their ally, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in a bid to restore power to the internationally recognized president Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi. The rebels regularly launch missiles from northern Yemen into Saudi Arabia.

The Houthis, which the United States and Saudis accuse of receiving support from Iran, denied any involvement on the attacks on the US warships.

The alleged Houthi attacks come as the United States is under pressure to drop support for the Saudi-led coalition over indiscriminate airstrikes and mounting civilian casualties.

The United States provides intelligence, air refueling and other support to the coalition.

Human rights groups have accused the US of being complicit in the destruction and humanitarian crisis in Yemen, causing the White House to say it was reviewing its support for the Saudi-led coalition.