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London has reportedly drafted a “final warning” to the Yemeni militants, which may be followed by airstrikes

Britain is preparing to launch airstrikes against Yemen’s Houthi militants in response to a wave of attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea, The Times reported on Sunday. The US and another European country would also take part in the strikes, the newspaper added.

The US and UK are expected to release a joint statement later on Sunday warning the Houthis to immediately cease their attacks or face military action from the West. This message is intended as a “final warning,” a British government source told the newspaper.

Should the Yemeni fighters fail to heed the warning, British and American ships and war planes will launch missiles at “pre-planned” targets in Yemen itself and on the Red Sea, The Times said, adding that an unnamed “European country” will “possibly” join the operation too.

The Houthis, who control a large part of Yemen’s territory, have attacked dozens of container ships in the Red Sea since the Israel-Hamas war broke out in October in a bid to drive freight traffic away from the Jewish state and disrupt global supply chains for as long as Israel’s military campaign continues. 

The Red Sea is the entry point for vessels using the Suez Canal, which handles about 12% of global trade.

The US announced a maritime task force earlier this month to patrol the Red Sea, although Washington struggled to secure support from its allies, with Spain insisting that it would only take part in a NATO-led mission and Italy dispatching warships only to defend Italian shipowners.

The Singapore-flagged container ship Maersk Hangzhou, operated by Denmark, was struck by a Houthi missile on Saturday, before US Navy helicopters sank three Houthi boats attempting to board the vessel on Sunday, US Central Command said in a statement. The sinking of the Houthi boats marked the first successful American strike on the militant group since the task force deployed to the region.

Maersk, one of the world’s largest shipping firms, had only resumed using the Red Sea route several days earlier. In light of the Houthi attacks, it previously sent its vessels on a much longer route around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. Houthi leadership said that the Maersk Hangzhou was targeted as it was en route to an Israeli port.

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