White House spokesperson John Kirby said the initial strikes had hit the Houthis’ ability to store, launch and guide missiles or drones, which the group has used to threaten shipping. He said Washington had no interest in a war with Yemen.
The Houthis said five fighters were killed in the initial strikes.
Mr Biden, whose administration removed the Houthis from a State Department list of “foreign terrorist organizations” in 2021, was asked by reporters whether he felt the term “terrorist” described the movement now. “I think they are,” he said.
The Red Sea crisis has added to the spread of conflict through the Middle East since Hamas militants rampaged through southern Israel on Oct 7, killing 1,200 people and seizing 240 hostages.
Israel has responded by laying waste to large sections of Gaza to try to annihilate Hamas. A total of 23,843 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli strikes on the enclave since Oct 7, the Gaza health ministry said in a statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday the country planned a “huge” addition to its defense budget as part of a build-up designed to cover its needs for years to come.
At the UN Security Council on Friday, Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the US and Britain “single-handedly triggered a spillover of the conflict (in Gaza) to the entire region.”
A senior US official accused Tehran of providing the Yemeni group with military capabilities and intelligence. There has been no sign so far Iran is seeking direct conflict, although Iran condemned the American and British strikes.
Houthi attacks have forced commercial ships to take a longer, costlier route around Africa, creating concern about a new bout of inflation and supply chain disruption. Container shipping rates for some global routes have soared this week.