PM Rishi Sunak briefs Cabinet amid speculation of strike over Red Sea Houthi attacks

There has been speculation that a response could involve strikes on the Houthi command centres
Library picture of Royal Navy destroyer HMS Diamond (left) alongside the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. Picture SWNSLibrary picture of Royal Navy destroyer HMS Diamond (left) alongside the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. Picture SWNS
Library picture of Royal Navy destroyer HMS Diamond (left) alongside the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. Picture SWNS

Rishi Sunak is reportedly holding a full Cabinet call on Thursday evening amid mounting speculation that UK and Western allies could take action against Houthi rebels following attacks in the Red Sea.

An emergency Cobra meeting is said to have taken place on Thursday morning followed by a meeting of the National Security Council, the Times reported.

Downing Street did not deny the reports.

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It comes after UK and US naval forces destroyed “multiple attack drones” deployed by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea, believed to be the largest attack yet from the Yemen-based force.

Grant Shapps has warned further action would be taken if attacks persist, amid growing global concern about the disruption in the key global shipping route.

He also said he believed the Houthis, a Shiite group which has held Yemen’s capital since 2014, were acting with the support of Iran.

“Be in no doubt at all, Iran is guiding what is happening there in the Red Sea, providing them not just with equipment to carry out those attacks but also often with the eyes and ears to allow those attacks to happen,” he told Sky News.

“We must be clear with the Houthis, that this has to stop and that is my simple message to them today, and watch this space.”

The Royal Navy air defence destroyer HMS Diamond was involved in the response to the latest in a series of attacks, which the Houthis have claimed are a response to the Israeli bombardment of Gaza.

Mr Shapps also posted on X, formerly Twitter: “Overnight, HMS Diamond, along with US warships, successfully repelled the largest attack from the Iranian-backed Houthis in the Red Sea to date.

“Deploying Sea Viper missiles and guns, Diamond destroyed multiple attack drones heading for her and commercial shipping in the area, with no injuries or damage sustained to Diamond or her crew.

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“The UK alongside allies have previously made clear that these illegal attacks are completely unacceptable and if continued the Houthis will bear the consequences.

“We will take the action needed to protect innocent lives and the global economy.”

It remains to be seen what form any further action might take from the US, the UK and other allies. There has been speculation that a response could involve strikes on the Houthi command centres.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters on Wednesday: “I am not going to speculate about how we will or will not respond to continued attacks.

“We do reserve the right to take further steps to protect commercial shipping and avoid the risk of further destabilising the region. That is something we will keep under review.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking in Bahrain, renewed warnings of a response.

He said: “I’m not going to telegraph or preview anything that might happen.

“All I can tell you again, we’ve made clear – we’ve been clear with more than 20 other countries – that if this continues, as it did yesterday, there will be consequences. And I’m going to leave it at that.”

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Some major shipping lines and oil giant BP have already diverted vessels around southern Africa, adding time and costs to journeys, rather than risk the Red Sea.

If the crisis continues, the increased costs could be passed on to consumers, hampering efforts to curb inflation and reduce interest rates.

Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said he was monitoring the situation closely when he appeared before MPs.

He told the Commons Treasury Committee: “We’ve certainly seen, as best we can tell from the monitoring, shipping traffic is being affected and is being rerouted. That will increase shipping prices and shipping costs. I think initially that will be an issue in the monetary policy world.

“I would say one of the things, fortunately, that hasn’t happened, is that we have not had a prolonged spike in oil prices.

“We had a bit of an initial spike and at the moment we’re seeing that, if anything, the oil price is actually coming down a bit, and there seems to be some price management to keep it there.”

US Central Command said the Houthis had launched a “complex attack” and a total of 18 attack drones, two anti-ship cruise missiles and an anti-ship ballistic missile were shot down in the operation which involved Diamond, US warships and F/A-18 fighter jets.

It said the attack was the 26th Houthi attack on the Red Sea shipping lanes since November 19.

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It posted on X: “On Jan 9, at approximately 9.15pm (Sanaa time), Iranian-backed Houthis launched a complex attack of Iranian designed one-way attack UAVs (OWA UAVs), anti-ship cruise missiles, and an anti-ship ballistic missile from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen into the southern Red Sea, towards international shipping lanes where dozens of merchant vessels were transiting.

“Eighteen OWA UAVs, two anti-ship cruise missiles, and one anti-ship ballistic missile were shot down by a combined effort of F/A-18s from USS Dwight D Eisenhower (CVN 69), USS Gravely (DDG 107), USS Laboon (DDG 58), USS Mason (DDG 87), and the United Kingdom’s HMS Diamond (D34).

“This is the 26th Houthi attack on commercial shipping lanes in the Red Sea since Nov 19. There were no injuries or damage reported.

The US-led Prosperity Guardian mission seeks to protect shipping using the vital Red Sea lanes which give access to the Suez Canal.

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron told MPs on the Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday that Houthi attacks in the Red Sea which had come in the wake of the Gaza conflict were “unacceptable” in one of the “most important sea lanes”.



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