The haul is the first since the Houthis began attacks on Red Sea shipping in November.
The US Navy has reported that it seized weapons sent by Iran to resupply Yemen’s Houthi rebels last week.
The United States Central Command (CENTCOM) announced in a statement on Tuesday that US Navy Seals found the arms during a night-time raid on a ship in the Arabian Sea on January 11. Iran has denied any link to the Houthis’ campaign of attacks in the Red Sea, which have disrupted global trade.
The raid on a dhow near the coast of Somalia last week uncovered “lethal” advanced conventional weapons, the statement said. The Iranian-made ballistic missiles and cruise missile components were seized by the US forces.
The seizure comes at a time of rising violence in the region linked to Israel’s war on Gaza. The Houthis, who control most of Yemen’s Red Sea coast, have been attacking commercial ships that they say are linked to Israel or bound for Israeli ports. Launched in November, the offensive is, according to the Yemeni group, intended as defence of Palestinians.
After forming a joint patrol force, US and British forces upped the ante last week, carrying out dozens of strikes on Houthi targets. US officials said the strikes had significantly dented the Houthis’ capacity, diminishing their ability to fire missiles and launch drones.
However, official sources cited by Al Jazeera claimed that the group still retains three-quarters of its capacity.
On Monday, the US military said that the rebel group had struck a US-owned and operated container ship with an anti-ship ballistic missile. No injuries or significant damage were reported.
The attack came the day after the Houthis launched a cruise missile toward a US destroyer.
Houthi spokesperson Yahya Sarea said that “all American and British ships and warships involved in the aggression against our country” would be considered hostile targets, vowing that no attacks would go unpunished.
US military analysts claimed that the weapons seized are of the same type as those deployed by the Houthis to attack international ships in the area.
Despite supporting the Houthi campaign rhetorically, Iran has staunchly denied Washington’s allegations that it is providing the Yemeni rebel group with weapons and tactical intelligence.
The statement described the haul as “the first seizure of lethal, Iranian-supplied advanced conventional weapons (ACW) to the Houthis since the beginning of Houthi attacks against merchant ships in November 2023”.
“This is yet another example of how Iran actively sows instability throughout the region in direct violation of UN Security Resolution 2216 and international law,” said CENTCOM Commander General Michael Erik Kurilla.
He also noted that two Navy Seals previously reported lost at sea were directly involved in the operation that led to the seizure.