US prepares “massive” response against pro-Iranian militants

Lloyd Austin added that the U.S. is preparing to take significant action in retaliation for the killing of three U.S. soldiers in Jordan, particularly in an attack by pro-Iranian militias. For days, the US has been saying attacks are imminent.

Threats of retaliation for Sunday's killings prompted some militant groups to say they were ending hostilities, and today Yemen's Houthi rebels continued to attack ships and fired a ballistic missile at a Liberian-flagged container ship in the Red Sea.

“Now, it's time to take away even more capacity than we've carried in the past,” Austin said in his first press conference since being hospitalized Jan. 1 due to complications from prostate cancer treatment.

Previous attacks by the United States, backed by the United Kingdom, have not stopped the Houthis from continuing to launch missiles and drones against ships in the Red Sea.

Since the war between Israel and Hamas began on October 7, Iranian-backed militant groups have attacked US bases in Iraq and Syria at least 166 times with rockets, missiles and one-way attack drones. Military installations in both countries.

The US military has also launched airstrikes against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The US blamed the attack on Tower 22 in Jordan on Kataib Hezbollah, an anti-Islamic, Iranian-backed militia group in Iraq. Although Iran denies any involvement, Austin said today that he did not know how much Tehran knew about the attack.

“But this is not important because Iran is funding these groups”, he added briefly, highlighting that “without this support”, the attacks would not have been possible.

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Austin said the Pentagon is still examining forensic data from the drone that struck Tower 22, a secret base in northeastern Jordan that is critical to the U.S. presence in neighboring Syria.

“I don't think our adversaries have a 'one and done' mentality. That's why they have a lot of capabilities. But the United States has a lot more. We're going to do whatever it takes to protect our troops.” warned Austin.

In the Red Sea, the Houthis have fired on commercial and military vessels nearly 40 times since November. In the latest attack, they fired a ballistic missile at a Liberian-flagged container ship on Thursday, US defense officials said.

The attack took place west of the rebel-held port city of Hodeidah in Yemen, but there were no deaths or injuries, the UK's Maritime Operations Center said.

An official North American source, speaking to The Associated Press (AP) on condition of anonymity, confirmed the indications given by the British operations center and identified the container ship as “Koi”.

On the other hand, a cruise missile was targeted southwest of Yemen's Aden near the Bab el-Mandeb strait between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, private security company Ambre announced Wednesday night.

Although U.S. officials had no information about any attack as of Wednesday night, the Houthis said the attack was on “Khoi.”

Since November, Yemeni rebels have repeatedly attacked ships in the Red Sea in the wake of Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip against the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, often focusing their operations against Israeli ships or ships linked to Israel.

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However, the Houthis have frequently targeted ships with little or no ties to Israel, endangering navigation on a key route for global trade between Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

Late Wednesday, U.S. FA-18 fighter jets struck and destroyed 10 Houthi drones ready for launch and a ground control station used by the rebels, U.S. military sources said.

The same sources also said they intercepted a ballistic missile and other drones already in the air.

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