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UN warns against escalation in the Red Sea following US and UK airstrikes on Yemen

This photo provided by the French Navy shows the frigate Languedoc in the Strait of Hormuz, between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, Friday, May 28, 2021.   -  
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The U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, Khaled Khiari, called for the Security Council to continue its efforts to prevent escalation of conflict in the Middle East as Yemen’s Houthis vowed fierce retaliation for recent U.S.-led strikes.

"These developments in the Red Sea and the risk of exacerbating regional tensions are alarming," said Khiari.

"We call on this council to continue its efforts in actively engaging with all concerned parties to prevent further escalation from exacerbating regional tensions or undermining regional peace, security or international trade," he added.

The U.S. Navy on Friday warned American-flagged vessels to steer clear of areas around Yemen in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden for the next 72 hours after the U.S. and Britain launched multiple airstrikes targeting Houthi rebels.

The warning in a notice to shippers came as Yemen’s Houthis vowed fierce retaliation for the U.S.-led strikes, further raising the prospect of a wider conflict in a region already beset by Israel's war in Gaza.

U.S. military and White House officials said they expected the Houthis to try to strike back. And President Joe Biden warned on Friday that the group could face further strikes.

The U.S.-led bombardment — launched in response to a recent campaign of drone and missile attacks on commercial ships in the vital Red Sea — killed at least five people and wounded six, the Houthis said. The U.S. said the strikes, in two waves, took aim at targets in 28 different locations across Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.

The White House said in November that it was considering redesignating the Houthis as a terrorist organization after they began their targeting of civilian vessels. The administration formally delisted the Houthis as a “foreign terrorist organization” and “specially designated global terrorists” in 2021, undoing a move by President Donald Trump

Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, director of the Joint Staff, said that the new U.S. strikes were largely in low-populated areas, and the number of those killed would not be high. He said the strikes hit weapons, radar and targeting sites, including in remote mountain areas.

As the bombing lit the predawn sky over multiple sites held by the Iranian-backed rebels, it forced the world to again focus on Yemen's yearslong war, which began when the Houthis seized the country's capital.

Since November, the rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea, saying they were avenging Israel's offensive in Gaza against Hamas. But they have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, imperiling shipping in a key route for global trade and energy shipments.

The Houthis’ military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree, said in a recorded address that the U.S. strikes would “not go unanswered or unpunished.”

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