US and UK navies repel largest Houthi attack on Red Sea shipping

UK and US naval forces have repelled the largest attack yet by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on shipping in the Red Sea, the UK defence secretary says.

The Iran-backed group launched 18 drones and three missiles on Tuesday night, according to the US military.

They were shot down by carrier-based jets and four warships, it added. No injuries or damage were reported.

The Houthis have not commented, but they have targeted merchant vessels in response to the war in the Gaza Strip.

They have claimed – often falsely – that the ships were linked to Israel.

The US military said Tuesday’s attack was the 26th since 19 November.

The US, UK and 10 other countries – including Germany, Italy, Australia and Japan – have warned the Houthis to immediately end the attacks, which they say are illegal and pose a “direct threat to freedom of navigation” in the critical waterway, through which almost 15% of global trade passes.

The allies have resisted striking targets in rebel-held north-west Yemen itself in retaliation, but UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps warned on Wednesday that if attacks continued “the Houthis will bear the consequences”.

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

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