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Live: Rishi Sunak says Britain and US acted in self-defence after strikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen

11 January 2024, 23:47 | Updated: 12 January 2024, 07:00

60 targets were hit in strikes overnight
60 targets were hit in strikes overnight. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Britain and the US have launched airstrikes against Houthi rebels in the Red Sea.

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Attacks from Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have been causing severe disruption on the key global shipping route in recent weeks.

The PM held a full Cabinet call on Thursday evening in a bid to decide on a response.

It followed warnings from Defence Secretary Grant Shapps after HMS Diamond helped repel a Houthi attack.

Follow the latest updates below.

Key updates:

  • UK and US launch strikes against Houthi rebels
  • Explosions heard across Yemen
  • Biden confirms 'defensive strikes'
  • It comes after Rishi Sunak held full Cabinet call to discuss response to Red Sea disruption

Thousands protest in Yemen

A massive crowd of people took to the streets of Sana'a, Yemen's capital, in the region occupied by Houthi rebels after the US and British airstrikes.

Reports estimate tens of thousands gathered in cities across Yemen on Friday as Houthi leaders condemned the strikes.

Sunak: Houthi threats can't continue

"Over the last month, we've seen a significant increase in the number of Houthi attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea," the PM has said in Ukraine.

"That's putting innocent lives at risk, it's disrupting the global economy and it's also destabilising the region.

"And in that time, we've also seen the single biggest attack on a British Navy warship that we've seen in decades.

"Now it's clear that that type of behaviour can't carry on. That's why we joined with allies in issuing very public condemnation of this behaviour."

Read more here

UK and US must ‘pay’ for strikes on Yemen, Iran-backed Houthi rebels warn

Houthi forces have vowed to retaliate against the West after UK and US air strikes attacked targets in Yemen overnight.

British and American jets and warships launched multiple strikes on missile launch 16 sites in Houthi-territory in Yemen, with rebel flocs now saying the West must “prepare to pay a heavy price” for “aggression”.

The UK and US attacks killed at least five rebel fighters, it is understood.

Houthi spokesman Mohammed al-Bukhaiti said the West had “made a mistake launching the war in Yemen”.

“Soon they will realise that the direct aggression against Yemen was the greatest folly in their history," he said.

Read more here.

Labour backs military action in Yemen, shadow defence secretary tells LBC

Shadow Defence Secretary John Healy tells Nick Ferrari Labour 'backs' the US and UK lead attack on Houthi rebels in Yemen. 

Sir Keir Starmer backs UK military strikes in Yemen

The Labour leader has said he supports the Government's decision to strike Houthi rebels in Yemen, given recent attacks in the Red Sea.

Sir Keir said: "I do think there needs to be a statement in parliament... at the first opportunity to set out the justification, limits and scope of the operation. 

"I also want to see a summary of the Government's legal position."

UK strikes two rebel sites in attacks on Houthi targets in Yemen

Four RAF Typhoons took part in attacks last night. A total of 14 targets were struck - 2 of which were hit successfully by UK jets, Armed Forces minister James Heappey tells LBC.

Two targets were successfully struck and the jets returned to safely to base.

The targets were rebel launch sites used to fire missiles and drones against war ships and commercial shipping in the southern Red Sea, Mr Heappey confirmed.

Other targets hit as part of the joint operation included launch sites, control sites and ammunition storage sites.

Armed Forces minister James Heappey tells LBC: “Both targets were successfully hit”

‘The safety of UK vessels is paramount', Foreign Secretary says

David Cameron issued a statement on X, he said: “The UK and US have carried out targeted strikes on Houthi military targets in Yemen. 

“The safety of UK vessels and the freedom of navigation across the Red Sea is paramount and that is why we are taking action.  

“As the UNSC has made clear, the Houthis must halt attacks in the Red Sea.”

Hamas reacts to Yemen strikes

Hamas, which is allied with the Houthis, has condemned the attacks on the sites in Yemen. 

The US and UK will bear responsibility for their attack's impacts on the security of the region, it said.

Meanwhile Saudi Arabia, which neighbours Yemen, has called for restraint and "avoiding escalation".

Pictured: RAF Typhoons strike military targets in Yemen

Allies issue joint statement after Yemen strikes

A joint statement has been issued by the governments of Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, United Kingdom, and the United States.

"In response to continued illegal, dangerous, and destabilising Houthi attacks against vessels, including commercial shipping, transiting the Red Sea, the armed forces of the United States and United Kingdom, with support from the Netherlands, Canada, Bahrain, and Australia, conducted joint strikes in accordance with the inherent right of individual and collective self-defence, consistent with the UN Charter, against a number of targets in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.  

"These precision strikes were intended to disrupt and degrade the capabilities the Houthis use to threaten global trade and the lives of international mariners in one of the world’s most critical waterways.

"The Houthis’ more than two dozen attacks on commercial vessels since mid-November constitute an international challenge. Today’s action demonstrated a shared commitment to freedom of navigation, international commerce, and defending the lives of mariners from illegal and unjustifiable attacks.

"Our aim remains to de-escalate tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea, but let our message be clear: we will not hesitate to defend lives and ensure the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways in the face of continued threats."

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