Advertisement

Cameron urges Houthis to stop Red Sea campaign after third UK-US air strikes

The Foreign Secretary has implored the Houthis to stop their “reckless” attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea following the latest UK-US air strikes.

Lord Cameron said the third wave of joint UK and US assaults on Houthi positions in Yemen on Saturday took place after “repeated warnings” for the rebel group to cease its harassment campaign.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4s were supported by Voyager tankers during the allied mission as they targeted locations in Yemen used by the Iran-backed militants.

More than 30 sites across 13 locations were hit by coalition forces, according to a joint statement by the eight nations involved.

Lord Cameron tweeted on Sunday: “The UK and the US have carried out further strikes on Houthi military targets.

“We have issued repeated warnings to the Houthis.

“Their reckless actions are putting innocent lives at risk, threatening the freedom of navigation and destabilising the region.

“The Houthi attacks must stop.”

But rebel leaders said the latest air strikes would not deter them from targeting commercial ships in an operation they say is backing Palestinians in Gaza.

Houthi military spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Saree said: “These attacks will not discourage Yemeni forces and the nation from maintaining their support for Palestinians in the face of the Zionist occupation and crimes.

“The aggressors’ air strikes will not go unanswered.”

The Houthis have repeatedly launched attacks on vessels in the Red Sea and elsewhere off the Yemen coast, claiming it is targeting Israeli or Israel-destined ships in protest at the war with Hamas in Gaza.

However, they have frequently targeted ships with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, endangering shipping on a key global trade route used for accessing the Suez Canal.

Red Sea shipping attacks
An RAF Typhoon FRG4 being prepared to conduct further strikes against Houthi targets on Saturday (Cpl Samantha Drummee/MOD/Crown Copyright)

As a result of the clashes in the southern Red Sea and the Bab al Mandab Strait, vessels have had to be redirected around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa, a journey that takes longer and is more costly.

It is feared the disruption could increase inflation and push up the price of goods in shops.

During Saturday’s attacks, RAF Typhoons used precision-guided bombs against several military targets at three locations, the MoD said.

According to the Whitehall department, allied intelligence had calculated some of the stations were being used to launch drone attacks and to spy on freight vessels and Western warships.

The ministry said the night-time raids were designed to ensure minimal risk of civilian casualties.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps denied the attacks were escalatory.

The Cabinet minister said on Saturday he was “confident” the military action had “further degraded” Houthi capabilities to carry out its missile and drone ambushes.

The US described hitting underground missile arsenals, launch sites and helicopters used by the rebels.

In a joint statement issued after the strikes by the UK and its coalition partners — the US, Australia, Bahrain, Denmark, Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand — the Houthis were warned the West “will not hesitate to continue to defend lives and the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways”.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said that as Houthi capability is discovered, allied forces would “try and get rid of it”.

Defending the impact of the assaults by London and Washington, Mrs Keegan told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme: “They are targeted and they take different targets each time — (they have targeted) the launchers, there has been some underground storage.

“So, they are targeted and they want to basically do this to get rid of the capabilities that the Houthis have.”

The Liberal Democrats said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak must not look to “avoid” being held to account over the Red Sea air strikes by Parliament as they renewed their call for a Commons vote.

Leader Sir Ed Davey said: “The Liberal Democrats support the case for limited strikes, so long as they remain limited.

“However, it is absolutely vital that Parliament has an opportunity to have its say, via a debate and a vote.

“It is becoming increasingly worrying that the Prime Minister seems to be doing all he can to avoid a proper debate and accountability in Parliament.”