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LONDON — Britain will “not hesitate” in striking Houthi rebel positions again if the militant group continues to attack ships in the Red Sea, Rishi Sunak said Tuesday.
The U.S. and U.K. conducted a fresh set of air and missile strikes on rebel facilities across Yemen on Monday, in the wake of continued attacks on Red Sea shipping. A first set of strikes earlier in January failed to deter the Houthis from continuing their attacks in the major trade artery.
In a statement in the House of Commons Tuesday, the U.K. prime minister urged the rebels to stop their “illegal and unacceptable attacks.”
“We are not seeking a confrontation … But if necessary, the United Kingdom will not hesitate to respond again in self-defense. We cannot stand by and allow these attacks to go unchallenged,” Sunak told MPs, adding: “Inaction is also a choice.”
Commercial and military vessels in the Red Sea have faced increased attacks since mid-November. The Houthis insist their assaults are focused on Israeli-linked shipping, in retaliation for Israel’s actions in the war in Gaza.
The U.K. and U.S. governments argue the rebel attacks should be seen as separate to the wider conflict in the Middle East.
Responding for the opposition in the Commons, Labour Leader Keir Starmer, who was not briefed in advance on the strikes in contrast to the previous round, reiterated his backing for the U.K.’s action.
But he demanded assurances that the latest strikes will help deter future Houthi attacks.
“While we do not question the justification for action, it is right that the House hears more about their effectiveness,” Starmer said.
Sunak confirmed the government will shortly publish the government legal advice it received on the strikes.