The British Government has threatened “direct action” against Yemen’s Houthi rebels following recent attacks on shipping in the Red Sea. Hours after the US military confirmed the destruction of four ships manned by insurgents that attacked the Maersk Hangzhou container ship (flagged in Singapore), Defense Secretary Grant Shapps issued a harsh warning in the pages of The Daily Telegraph, emphasizing that London is considering responding with “air strikes” to future attacks.

“The Houthis must not jump to misleading conclusions: we are committed to responding to the malign actors who are carrying out the illegal attacks,” Shapps warned. “Continued aggression in the Red Sea risks escalation that could trigger a regional conflict.”

The British Secretary of Defense assured that the situation in the Middle East “is a test for the international community” and reiterated the United Kingdom’s willingness “to close ranks with our allies.” A failure to guarantee the “protection” of the Red Sea, Shapps assured, would serve to “embolden” other powers that “seek to create tensions in places like the South China Sea and Crimea” (in a veiled mention of the situation of Taiwan and the war in Ukraine).

The British Government has contributed to the newly created coalition to guarantee naval security in the Red Sea with the destroyer HMS Diamond, which has patrolled the area since December and neutralized a drone attack. Shapps’ statements are interpreted as a preview of a more forceful position when it comes to defending the security of the Bab El Mandeb Strait, through which up to 12% of the world’s maritime trade passes.

In reaction to Israel’s military offensive on Gaza, in response to the attacks launched by Hamas on October 7, the Houthi rebels (who have participated since 2015 in the civil war in Yemen, with the support of Iran and against the intervention led by Saudi Arabia) have launched attacks against ships bound for Israeli ports.

“Military movements to protect Israeli ships will not prevent us from fulfilling our religious, moral and humanitarian duty in support of the oppressed in Palestine,” said Yahya Sarea, spokesman for the Houthi rebels, on Sunday, confirming the death of ten members of their group. ranks in the confrontation “with the American enemy.

The British Government was quick to align itself with Washington in the face of the incident at the end of the year and has anticipated that “it will not hesitate to take new actions to put an end to the threats against freedom of navigation in the Red Sea.”

Foreign Secretary David Cameron, for his part, pointed out Iran, after a telephone conversation with his namesake Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on the same Sunday. “I have made clear that Iran shares responsibility for preventing such attacks, given its long-standing support for the Houthis,” Cameron said.

“The situation in the Red Sea is incredibly serious, and the Houthi attacks are unacceptable and destabilizing,” said a Downing Street spokesperson. “We are working on a variety of scenarios, no decision has yet been made and we will continue to pursue diplomatic routes.”

“We call on the Iran-backed Houthis to stop illegal attacks,” the spokesman added. “We will continue to work with the United States and our allies to protect freedom of navigation.”