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'Houthi Attacks Must Stop' Says U.K. Foreign Secretary After Latest Joint Strikes With U.S.

The U.K. and U.S. joined forces for the third time to carry out strikes against Yemen’s Houthi rebels, aiming for 36 targets at 13 locations in Iranian-backed Houthi controlled areas of Yemen, on February 4, 2024. Credit - CENTCOM/Anadolu—Getty Images

The U.K.’s top foreign official has said “the Houthi attacks must stop” after the U.K. and U.S. joined forces for the third time on Saturday to carry out strikes against Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who have initiated a series of attacks in the Red Sea amid the Israel-Hamas war. 

We have issued repeated warnings to the Houthis,” foreign secretary David Cameron said in a post on X (formerly Twitter) on Sunday. “Their reckless actions are putting innocent lives at risk, threatening the freedom of navigation and destabilizing the region. The Houthi attacks must stop.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak posted on X that the Royal Air Force “successfully took out specific Houthi military targets in Yemen, further degrading the Houthis’ capabilities. Recent attacks on U.K. and international vessels are unacceptable. It’s our duty to protect innocent lives and preserve freedom.”

U.K. Secretary of State for Defense Grant Shapps commented on X that the Houthis’ attacks are “illegal and unacceptable and it is our duty to protect innocent lives and preserve freedom of navigation,” and called the third wave of strikes “proportionate and targeted,” saying the U.S. and U.K. acted in “self-defense and in accordance with international law.”

“This is not an escalation,” he said in the statement. “We have already successfully targeted launchers and storage sites involved in Houthi attacks, and I am confident that our latest strikes have further degraded the Houthis’ capabilities.”

Ahead of the third round of joint strikes from the U.K. and U.S., Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Nasser Kanaani, in a statement on X, condemned military attacks on Yemen. He also criticized the U.S. strikes in Iraq and Syria, which were in response to a fatal drone attack that killed three American troops in Jordan. He said such strikes violate the sovereignty of the countries and would lead to “no result other than the escalation of tensions and instability in the region.”

In a follow-up post on Sunday, Kanaani condemned the most recent strikes from the U.S. and U.K. against Yemen, calling them a worrying threat to international peace and security.

The Houthis were undeterred by the latest military action, instead vowing to respond. Mohammed Al-Bukhaiti, a spokesman for the group, which is also called Ansar Allah, said on X: “The American-British aggression against Yemen will not go unanswered, and we will meet escalation with escalation.”

The Iran-supported militant group––one side in Yemen’s yearslong civil war––began launching attacks on commercial shipping vessels it says are linked to Israel in solidarity with Hamas after the Palestinian militant group attacked Israel on Oct. 7, leading to the conflict in Gaza. The attacks have crippled global shipping, leading some companies to pause operating in the Red Sea and take longer, more expensive routes.

The barrage triggered a joint military response from the U.S. and U.K. on Jan. 11 and Jan. 22, while the U.S. has carried out additional smaller attacks.

President Joe Biden acknowledged in mid-January that the attacks were not yet working to stop the Houthis, but would continue. Experts questioned to TIME whether the attacks would deter the Houthis or could backfire if world powers underestimate the Yemeni group’s military might, while another observer said the Western superpowers’ attacks were instigating further responses that continue to destabilize shipping.

Al-Bukhaiti said on X that the latest bombing wouldn’t change the group’s position and its military actions against Israel would continue until “the crimes of genocide in Gaza are stopped and the siege on its residents is lifted, no matter the sacrifices it costs us.”

Israel is currently fighting accusations from South Africa in the International Court of Justice that it is committing genocide in its war in Gaza, which has killed more than 27,000 people, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. The court ruled preliminarily in January that “at least some of the acts and omissions alleged by South Africa to have been committed by Israel in Gaza appear to be capable of falling within the provisions of the [Genocide] Convention,” and called on Israel to take steps to mitigate such acts, but stopped short of ordering a ceasefire. An Israeli government spokesperson had denied the accusations as “spurious and specious charges.”

As tensions escalate, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to travel again to the Middle East on Sunday.

Contact us at letters@time.com.