Houthi rebel bombings in Yemen: UK and US launch targeted airstrikes against military bases after Red Sea attacks

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The UK and the US's intervention in the Middle East came after Houthi rebels began targeting international shipping in the Red Sea

British and American forces have bombed military sites in Yemen used by Houthi rebels after warning that continued attacks in the Red Sea would result in retaliation.

The Royal Air Force was part of targeted strikes in the Middle Eastern country after the Iranian-backed rebels began disrupting and intercepting international trade in the Red Sea in late 2023. US President Joe Biden confirmed that the airstrikes were successfully carried out on a number of Yemeni sites, adding that the move by the UK and US was supported by Australian, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands.

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In a statement on Friday morning, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who had tabled a full Cabinet call on Thursday evening to discuss the strikes, said: “In recent months, the Houthi militia have carried out a series of dangerous and destabilising attacks against commercial shipping in the Red Sea, threatening UK and other international ships, causing major disruption to a vital trade route and driving up commodity prices.

“Their reckless actions are risking lives at sea and exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Despite the repeated warnings from the international community, the Houthis have continued to carry out attacks in the Red Sea, including against UK and US warships just this week. This cannot stand. The United Kingdom will always stand up for freedom of navigation and the free flow of trade.

“We have therefore taken limited, necessary and proportionate action in self-defence, alongside the United States with non-operational support from the Netherlands, Canada and Bahrain against targets tied to these attacks, to degrade Houthi military capabilities and protect global shipping.”

The UK's Ministry of Defence said in a statement that coalition forces from the two countries "agreed to conduct a carefully coordinated strike to reduce the Houthis’ capability to violate international law in this manner” after rebels targeted HMS Diamond and US Navy vessels in the Red sea on Tuesday January 9. In a statement, the MoD said: “One was a site at Bani in north-western Yemen used to launch reconnaissance and attack drones. A number of buildings involved in drone operations were targeted by our aircraft.

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“The other location struck by our aircraft was the airfield at Abbs. Intelligence has shown that it has been used to launch both cruise missiles and drones over the Red Sea. Several key targets at the airfield were identified and prosecuted by our aircraft."

Houthi officials said that five people were killed in the attack, with another six injured. It was not confirmed whether the casualties were either civilians or rebels.

Ali al-Qahoum, a high-ranking Houthi official, said of the strike on X (formerly Twitter): “The battle will be bigger…. and beyond the imagination and expectation of the Americans and the British.”

In an unusual move, opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer and Labour's shadow defence secretary John Healey were briefed after the Cabinet meeting on Thursday evening. Some MPs, including senior SNP and Lib Dem representatives, have called for parliament to be recalled to discuss the matter urgently.

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It comes after Houthi rebels began targeting ships travelling through the Red Sea route that they believe were destined for Israel amid the ongoing conflict with Hamas, a group which the Houthi have publicly gave their backing. Oil giants BP are among those who have removed their ships from the route and diverted elsewhere, with warnings that the disruption could be costly for consumers down the line.

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