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US Central Command forces alongside UK Armed Forces, and with the support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands, conduct strikes on 8 Al Houthi targets in Iranian-backed militant-controlled areas of Yemen on January 22, 2024.. Image Credit: AFP

SANAA: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak warned Iran-backed Al Houthis that Britain would stage new military action if the Yemeni rebels keep attacking shipping in the Red Sea.

“We are not seeking a confrontation,” he told parliament hours after a second round of US-UK strikes.

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“We urge the [AL] Houthis and those who enable them to stop these illegal and unacceptable attacks.

“But if necessary, the United Kingdom will not hesitate to respond in self-defence. We cannot stand by and allow these attacks to go unchallenged,” Sunak added.

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Royal Air Force jets struck two military sites just north of the Yemeni capital Sana’a, “each containing multiple specific targets, which the Huthis used to support their attacks on shipping,” Sunak said.

He informed MPs that the government’s initial evidence was that “all intended targets were destroyed”.

Sunak added that the joint military operation with the United States, which followed similar strikes on January 11, were “working to degrade” Al Houthis’ capability to launch attacks.

He insisted the strikes were “limited”, in line with international law and that no decision has been made to start a sustained campaign against the rebel group.

Since the first strikes, the United States has also launched individual air raids against missiles that Washington said posed imminent threats to civilian and military vessels.

Al Houthis’ warning

But Al Houthis have vowed to continue their attacks — part of a growing crisis in the Middle East linked to the Israel-Hamas war, which has raised tensions across the region as well as fears of a broader war directly involving Iran.

The Al Houthis warned on Tuesday that the US-British strikes would not go “unanswered and unpunished”.

The United States and Britain launched a second round of joint military strikes on Al Houthis on Tuesday over their attacks on Red Sea shipping.

The latest raids, heard by residents of the rebel-held capital Sanaa around midnight (2100 GMT), hit eight Al Houthi targets, a joint US-UK statement said, while Al Houthis listed 18 strikes across their territory.

US and British forces carried out a first wave of strikes against the rebel group earlier this month, and the United States launched further air raids against missiles that Washington said posed imminent threats to both civilian and military vessels.

The latest strikes were against “eight Al Houthi targets in Yemen in response to Al Houthis’ continued attacks against international and commercial shipping as well as naval vessels transiting the Red Sea”, Washington and London said in a joint statement with other countries that supported the military action.

“These precision strikes are intended to disrupt and degrade the capabilities that the Huthis use to threaten global trade and the lives of innocent mariners,” the statement said.

The US Central Command said in a separate statement that the targets of the strikes “included missile systems and launchers, air defence systems, radars, and deeply buried weapons storage facilities”.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said Al Houthis had carried out more than 12 attacks on shipping since the first wave of joint strikes on January 11.

“What we have done again is send the clearest possible message that we will continue to degrade their ability to carry out these attacks... (and) that we back our words and our warnings with action,” he said in a statement.

The Houthis remained defiant, with military spokesman Yahya Saree promising a response.

“These attacks will not go unanswered and unpunished,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter, listing 18 strikes in Sanaa, Hodeida, Taez and Al-Bayda provinces.

A senior US military official said the strikes were carried out using a combination of precision-guided munitions from US and British aircraft, and Tomahawk cruise missiles.

There were no concerns about civilian casualties at the sites that were hit, while Huthi losses were unknown, the official told journalists.

“The targeting was very specific and... very deliberate to go after the capability that they are using to attack maritime vessels in the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandab and Gulf of Aden,” the official added.

Saree did not mention any casualties in his post on X.

Yemen’s official Saba news agency said strikes hit Sanaa and several other parts of the country, while Huthi TV outlet Al-Masirah said four strikes targeted the Al-Dailami military base north of the capital, which is under rebel control.