UK, US forces repel 21 drones and missiles in ‘largest attack’ yet by Houthis

British defense secretary, noting terror group is backed by Iran, says assaults are illegal and ‘completely unacceptable,’ warns of consequences if they continue

Illustrative: An Egyptian watches the British destroyer HMS Diamond pass through the Suez Canal as it sails from the Red Sea toward the Mediterranean, on December 2, 2012. (AFP)
Illustrative: An Egyptian watches the British destroyer HMS Diamond pass through the Suez Canal as it sails from the Red Sea toward the Mediterranean, on December 2, 2012. (AFP)

US and UK forces have shot down 21 drones and missiles over the Red Sea launched by Yemen’s Houthis, in what London branded Wednesday the “largest attack” yet by the Iran-backed group.

The Western allies’ warships and planes took out 18 drones and three missiles in their latest Red Sea military intervention on Tuesday, the US military said.

HMS Diamond, a British destroyer, intervened with “her guns and Sea Viper missiles” after the drones were “heading for her and commercial shipping in the area,” UK Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said.

It comes a week after 12 nations led by the United States warned the Houthis of consequences unless they immediately halted firing on commercial vessels in the busy international shipping corridor.

The Houthis say they are targeting Israeli-linked vessels in support of Palestinians in Gaza, where Israel is battling terror group Hamas.

“Overnight, HMS Diamond, along with US warships, successfully repelled the largest attack from the Iranian-backed Houthis in the Red Sea to date,” Shapps said in a statement.

“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,” he vowed.

Britain’s Defence Secretary Grant Shapps speaks during a press conference in London, December 11, 2023. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)

The US Central Command (CENTCOM) said the Houthis had launched “a complex attack of Iranian designed one-way attack UAVs,” as well as firing anti-ship cruise missiles and an anti-ship ballistic missile from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.

They were downed by a combination of F/A-18 warplanes, operating from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier, three American destroyers and the British naval vessel, CENTCOM said.


The incident is the latest since the US set up a multinational naval task force last month to protect Red Sea shipping from Houthi attacks, which are endangering a transit route that carries up to 12 percent of global trade.

CENTCOM said US forces shot down a drone launched from Yemen over the weekend, while Vice Admiral Brad Cooper said the Houthis had launched an explosives-laden sea drone into shipping lanes last week — the first time they had used such a weapon in the current conflict.

The Houthis — who control much of Yemen — are part of the “axis of resistance” of groups arrayed against Israel.

The Israel-Hamas conflict began when the Palestinian terror group carried out a devastating cross-border attack from Gaza on October 7 that killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians. The 3,000 terrorists who burst into Israel across the border also abducted at least 240 people, most of whom remain as hostages in Gaza.

Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen publish a video showing how the group hijacked an Israeli-linked shipping vessel in the Red Sea on November 20, 2023. (Screen capture/X)

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says over 23,000 people have been killed in the fighting, though these figures cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires. The IDF says it has killed over 8,500 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

The war has sparked widespread anger in the Middle East, and armed groups across the region that are opposed to Israel have used the growing death toll as an excuse to carry out attacks.

US forces in Iraq and Syria have also repeatedly come under fire from drone and rocket attacks that Washington says are being carried out by Iran-backed armed groups.

Last week, the United States carried out a strike in Baghdad that killed a pro-Iran commander who it said was involved in attacks on American forces — a move that infuriated the Iraqi government.

The violence in Iraq and Syria and the continued attacks by the Houthis have raised fears of a broader regional conflict directly involving Iran — a worst-case scenario that Washington is desperately seeking to avoid.

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