- By Ruth Comerford and Frank Gardner, security correspondents
- BBC News
The US and UK carried out a new series of joint air strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen.
The Pentagon said Monday's strikes hit eight targets, including an underground storage site and Houthi missile and surveillance capabilities.
The Iran-backed Houthis are targeting ships they say are linked to Israel and the West and that pass through the important trade route on the Red Sea.
The United States and the United Kingdom said they were trying to protect the “free flow of trade.”
A joint statement issued by the Pentagon confirmed “an additional round of proportionate and necessary strikes” against the Houthis.
The statement added: “Our goal remains to calm tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea, but let us reiterate our warning to the Houthi leadership: We will not hesitate to defend lives and the free flow of trade in one of the most important regions in the world.” “Vital waterways face continuing threats.”
This is the eighth strike launched by the United States against Houthi targets in Yemen. This is the second joint operation with the United Kingdom, after the joint strikes were carried out on January 11.
Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron told reporters that the UK had sent a “clear message” and that it would “continue to weaken” the Houthis’ ability to carry out attacks.
Asked whether the strikes could lead to an escalation of tensions in the Middle East, Lord Cameron said that it was the Houthis who were escalating the situation, and that he was “confident” that previous strikes had been effective.
He went on to say that the Houthis' narrative that the strikes were linked to the war between Israel and Hamas “should not be accepted”, and that the UK wanted to see a “swift end to the conflict” in Gaza.
Lord Cameron said the UK called for an “immediate humanitarian truce” and “we want it to turn into a permanent and sustainable ceasefire.” He added that it is a plan that he will present when he visits the region this week.
The joint statement said that the strikes were carried out with the support of Australia, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands.
The BBC has learned that the Labor Party wants the government to make a statement about the strikes in Parliament today. Opposition Leader Sir Keir Starmer has not been briefed on the strikes and wants a confidential briefing on the operation this morning.
US fighter jets from the aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower participated in the strikes on Monday.
The British Ministry of Defense said that four Royal Air Force Typhoon aircraft, supported by a pair of Voyager oil tankers, had joined US forces.
The Ministry of Defense said: “Our aircraft used Paveway IV precision-guided bombs to strike multiple targets at two military sites near Sanaa Airport. These sites were used to enable ongoing and intolerable attacks against international shipping in the Red Sea.”
He added: “In line with standard UK practice, very rigorous analysis was applied in planning the strikes to minimize any risk of civilian casualties, and as with previous strikes, our aircraft bombed at night to mitigate any such risk.”
If a statement is not made in Parliament, Labor will push for more details on strikes and how to manage the risk of escalation.
Government Minister Huw Merriman told Sky News that air strikes “will not be just a one-shot” if the Houthis continue to attack ships in the Red Sea.
British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps described the strikes as “self-defense” against the Houthis’ “intolerable attacks” on commercial ships.
“This action aims to weaken the Houthis’ capabilities, and will deal another blow to their limited reserves and ability to threaten global trade,” he wrote on X.
It is understood that neither the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, nor the Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, were briefed in advance about the new strikes.
The Houthi-run Al-Masirah TV reported strikes in Sanaa, Taiz, and Al-Bayda governorates, including Al-Dailami Air Base near the capital, Sanaa.
Ten days after the first carefully calibrated joint air and missile strike by the US and UK, the Houthis remain defiant.
They continued to fire a variety of projectiles at ships passing by the Yemeni coast, and in one case they mistakenly targeted a ship carrying Russian oil.
Under the newly named Operation Poseidon Archer, US-led strikes have now hit new targets, having previously carried out a number of pre-emptive strikes on Houthi launch sites.
The Pentagon says these destroyed the missiles as they were preparing for launch. Western intelligence recently estimated that at least 30% of the Houthi missile stockpile has been destroyed or destroyed.
However, it is clear that the Houthis, who are supplied, trained and advised by Iran, are intent on continuing their attacks on ships they suspect of being linked to Israel, the US or the UK.
This gained them great popularity at home, where many Yemenis were angered by their brutal rule.
It is also popular with many across the wider Arab world, where the Houthis say they support Hamas as part of an Iran-backed “axis of resistance” against Israel.
This comes after US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke earlier on Monday.
In an official readout of their phone call, the White House said Mr Biden and Mr Sunak “discussed ongoing Iranian-backed Houthi attacks against commercial and naval vessels crossing the Red Sea”.
The White House said the leaders reaffirmed their “commitment to freedom of navigation and international trade and to defending sailors from unlawful and unprovoked attacks.”
He added, “The President and the Prime Minister discussed the importance of increasing humanitarian aid, protecting civilians for the residents of Gaza, and securing the release of hostages held by Hamas.”
The Houthis began attacking commercial ships in November, saying they were responding to Israel's military ground operation in Gaza.
Since then, the group has launched dozens of attacks on commercial tankers passing through the Red Sea, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.
In response, the United States and the United Kingdom launched a wave of air strikes against dozens of Houthi targets on January 11.
These strikes – supported by Australia, Bahrain, the Netherlands and Canada – began after Houthi forces ignored an ultimatum to stop attacks in the region.
“Infuriatingly humble analyst. Bacon maven. Proud food specialist. Certified reader. Avid writer. Zombie advocate. Incurable problem solver.”