BRITAIN and America last night moved closer to launching air strikes on rebels wreaking havoc in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
Defence chiefs were in talks over a possible armed response on Iran-backed Houthi militias using sites in Yemen to bombard vessels operating in the Red Sea.
Houthi rebels have been attacking cargo ships in the Red Sea, and the UK is ready to respondReuters
Sources said eight of the 20 ships attacked in the 30 days before Christmas were either UK- registered, had Brits in their crew or carried goods for the UK.
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps warned: “Those terrorists who are disrupting trade in the Red Sea are drinking in the last chance saloon.
“Diplomatic efforts have been made to find a resolution but with limited success.
“We cannot allow one of the world’s key waterways that serves global trade to be held for ransom.
“Attacks on commercial shipping with drones and missiles is an attack on all of us and the culture and freedoms we cherish.
“There is no justification for targeting civilian shipping in this way.
“We need an immediate end to these illegal attacks.
“If the Houthis continue to threaten lives and trade, we will be forced to take the necessary and appropriate action.”
The Houthis began their attacks after war broke out between Israel and Hamas on October 7.
They backed the terrorists and have used missiles, hijackings and harassment against ships they believe have links to Israel.
The aggression prompted the launch of a US-led multinational naval operation to protect shipping routes.
However, some allies have been reluctant to join.
It was the first time the Royal Navy has fired air defence weapons in anger for more than 30 years.
Q&A on Yemen’s Houthi military maniacs
WHO are the Houthis?
SHIA Islamist rebels who are in control of much of western Yemen. They formed in the 1990s and are backed by Iran.
Their slogan is “Death to America, Death to Israel, curse the Jews and victory to Islam”.
WHY are they attacking ships?
TO show support for Hamas following the outbreak of its war with Israel. On 19 November, the Houthis promised to target vessels they believe are heading to and from Israel.
ARE they a danger to the UK?
YES. The attacks disrupt global supply routes. Ships are sailing further which could see prices and inflation go up.
Delays in natural gas shipments will force energy costs to rise.