American forces in Yemen destroyed a Houthi rebel missile on Wednesday that posed an “imminent threat” to US military planes, the military said. The US in collaboration with the UK has been carrying out strikes on the Houthis both unilaterally and jointly since the rebel group took hold of the Red Sea.Rare strike neutralizes air dangerU.S. troops “struck and destroyed a Houthi surface-to-air missile that was prepared to launch” after determining it “presented an imminent threat to U.S. aircraft,” the militarys Central Command said.Officials declined to identify the threatened planes or precise location of the rebel missile. But CENTCOM said the operation transpired in Houthi-controlled territory.Jan. 31 at approximately 3:30 p.m. (Sanaa time), USCENTCOM forces struck and destroyed a Houthi surface-to-air missile prepared to launch. U.S. forces identified the missile in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and determined that it presented an imminent threat to U.S. aircraft. pic.twitter.com/FAFu8TqGor— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) January 31, 2024Yemens Iran-backed Houthis said U.S. and British warplanes had bombed the northern rebel stronghold of Saada. That claim could not be independently verified on Wednesday.Move comes amid prsistent Houthi attacksThe rare defensive strike comes as the Houthis continually target commercial ships around Yemen and now directly threaten Western forces intervening in the conflict.Since November, the Houthis have attacked dozens of vessels linked to US ally Israel as it wages war with Hamas militants in Gaza. The shipping attacks typically involve cruise or ballistic missiles.U.S. and British commanders have responded with air raids on Houthi coastal missile batteries and infrastructure. But those counterstrikes focused on reducing the threat to maritime traffic in the Red Sea.Wednesdays missile destruction specifically neutralized airborne threats to American troops stationed in the vicinity of Yemens civil war.Warships, patrols seek to deter rebel attacksThe U.S. also organized a special naval task force last month with allies to better protect one of the worlds busiest shipping corridors. Up to 12% of global trade passes through the Red Sea choke point.Meanwhile, the U.S. has re-designated the Houthi militia a terrorist organization after previously revoking the label. The shift allows for tougher diplomatic and financial pressure on the Iran-aligned rebels.But the designation has not halted the Houthis attacks or vitriolic threats thus far. On Wednesday, the militia claimed it targeted a U.S.-bound merchant vessel with multiple missiles in support of Palestinians.The brazen assault followed the Houthis boasting they repeatedly fired at American destroyer USS Gravely. U.S. officials confirmed rebels shot one cruise missile toward the warship, but said it was quickly intercepted.Threats linked to Israel-Hamas conflictThe cycle of Houthi threats and attacks is tied to historic fighting between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza last fall.Anger over Israels devastating Gaza offensive has fuelled violence by Iranian proxies across the region for months. U.S. bases have been targeted over 165 times since mid-October as a result.A drone strike on Sunday at a facility in Jordan housing American troops killed 3 soldiers which the U.S. blamed on Iran-backed militants. U.S. commanders have vowed retaliation for the attack.