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11 Jan, 2024 15:50

UK threatens Yemen with bombing

The defence secretary tells reporters he will not “allow” the situation in the Red Sea to continue
UK threatens Yemen with bombing

Britain is poised to start bombing in response to attacks on Red Sea shipping by Yemen’s Houthis, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps warned during a press conference on Wednesday.

Speaking hours after a British destroyer shot down a swarm of Houthi drones and missiles over the busy shipping lane, Shapps declared: “This cannot continue and we won’t allow it to continue.

We cannot have a situation where a major sea route, a major ability to move goods around the world, is being cut off by terrorists and thugs, and we therefore must act,” he continued.

The UK alongside allies have previously made clear that these illegal attacks are completely unacceptable and if continued the Houthis will bear the consequences,” Shapps warned in a statement released alongside the press briefing. 

The defence secretary insisted that the Houthis were not acting alone. “Iran is guiding what is happening there in the Red Sea, providing them not just with the equipment to carry out those attacks but also often with the eyes and ears to allow those attacks to happen,” he claimed.

British destroyer HMS Diamond shot down seven of the drones in Tuesday night’s attack, according to Shapps, while three US destroyers and F-18/A planes also took down some of the projectiles. The Houthi onslaught was described as the most complex yet to be launched since the Yemeni group began targeting the Red Sea’s busy shipping lanes in response to Israel’s deadly bombardment of Gaza.

A spokesman for the Houthis said the attacks would continue “until the siege of Gaza is lifted,” explaining that Tuesday's strike had targeted “an American ship that was providing support [to Israel]” as a “preliminary response to the treacherous attack on our naval forces by the American enemy.” 

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution on Wednesday, demanding an immediate halt to Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea, denouncing the strikes as an impediment to global commerce and freedom of navigation. The resolution was passed a week after the UK, US and ten other countries issued an ultimatum designed as a “final warning” to the Houthis, insisting they stop their “profoundly destabilizing” attacks or “bear the responsibility of the consequences.” 

Since the start of Israel’s war against Hamas in October, the Houthis have reportedly launched at least 26 attacks in the Red Sea. While 12% of global trade previously passed through the waterway, including 30% of global container traffic, several of the world’s largest shipping companies have abandoned the direct route out of safety concerns, plotting lengthier and costlier courses around the Cape of Good Hope. Last month, the UK Treasury warned the disruption to shipping could shrink the country’s economy by 0.3%, an estimate which has since grown.