Military action by US and UK military forces against the Houthis rebel group in Yemen appears imminent. It comes a day after warships from both countries repelled a barrage of 21 Houthi rockets, drones and cruise missiles fired at Western warships and commercial vessels in the Red Sea.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said further attacks by the Yemeni rebels on international shipping could prompt a Western military response amid speculation that Washington could bomb military targets in an attempt to prevent future attacks.
The UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps accused Iran of assisting the Yemeni rebels with surveillance and intelligence. He made this statement during a press briefing where he told reporters to “watch this space”.
Shapps emphasized that Britain, its Western allies and Saudi Arabia “all agreed” that the series of attacks on warships and merchant shipping in the southern Red Sea “cannot continue”. He also did not rule out the possibility of striking Houthi military targets on land.
In a statement released before the press briefing, the defence secretary made it clear that these illegal attacks are completely unacceptable and that if they continue, the Houthis will bear the consequences.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak held a full cabinet call this evening which is thought to be about UK and US military strikes against Yemen’s Houthi rebels following attacks in the Red Sea. The meeting started at 7.45 pm tonight, with senior figures including Foreign Secretary David Cameron seen entering Downing Street.
It comes after an emergency COBRA meeting was held this morning, followed by a call between Mr Sunak and Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.
Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Pat Ryder declined to comment on reports coming out of the UK of potential action against Houthi rebels at a news conference in Washington DC.
“I’m not going to telegraph, forecast or speculate on any potential future operations,” Gen Ryder told reporters.
“And I think that statement from multiple nations when it comes to the fact that there will be consequences – should the attacks not stop – speaks for itself. And I’ll just leave it at that.”
Since November, Houthi forces have been engaging in aggressive actions against ships in the Red Sea, carrying out over 100 drone and missile attacks on vessels traversing the crucial shipping lane. This rebel group, supported by Iran, holds significant control over Yemen and has previously stated that their assaults target ships associated with Israel, as a response to the conflict in Gaza.