According to the UK’s Daily Express, a unit of 40 British Special Air Service (SAS) soldiers arrived in eastern Yemen on Sunday to hunt down the alleged perpetrators of the attack on the Israeli-linked tanker Mercer Street, which killed two crew members, including a British citizen.
The report said the SAS soldiers landed at the Al Ghaydah Airport in Yemen’s Mahrah province, which borders Oman. It said the soldiers are working with US special forces that were already in the country training a “Saudi commando unit.”
The Express cited a senior UK military source who said the Mercer Street attack was launched from Yemen, which means the British are blaming the Houthis. “Everything points to the drone being launched from Yemen. The concern now is that an extended range drone will give them a new capability,” the source said. The report also said that US and Israeli intelligence believe the drone was launched from eastern Yemen.
The US has formally blamed Iran for the Mercer Street attack, a charge Tehran denies. The Express report is the first to pin the incident on the Houthis, but it lacks any evidence, and nothing is confirmed at this point. The report said the British soldiers are being aided by “local handlers” who have knowledge of the region and will help the UK hunt down Houthis.
Last Friday, US Central Command released a statement blaming Iran for the Mercer Street attack but made no mention of Yemen. The US often blames Iran for Houthis drone attacks inside Saudi Arabia. While the Iranians openly support the Houthis politically, it’s not clear if Tehran provides the group military arms. Yemen has been under a US-Saudi blockade since 2015, making it extremely difficult to get weapons into the country.
Israel has been threatening to attack Iran over the tanker attack, and the US is calling on the world to take collective action. Speaking to the UN Security Council Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it is up to “all of our nations” to hold Iran “accountable.”