yemen houthi
The Houthi military helicopter flies over the Galaxy Leader cargo ship in the Red Sea in November. Joint US and British forces shot down 18 drones and three missiles launched by the Houthis late Tuesday, in what was described as their biggest attack so far in solidarity with Palestinians in Hamas-ruled Gaza
The US and the UK are ready to carry out airstrikes against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen as early as tonight - after both countries warned there could be consequences if ships are continually targeted in the Red Sea.

Joint US and British forces shot down 18 drones and three missiles launched by the Houthis late Tuesday, in what was described as their biggest attack so far in solidarity with Palestinians in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Antony Blinken warned of 'consequences' if the Houthi do not stop attacking ships in the Red Sea, and called on Iran to end their support for the rebels.

It comes at a fraught time for the US - as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is reeling from his prostate cancer operation. He has been in hospital for over a week.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks has assumed his duties during his absence, but The Pentagon has faced backlash following news that the public, nor President Biden, were informed until days into Austin's hospital stay.

Comment: Indeed, one journalist explained how the public would, understandably, find it difficult to trust any other comments on similar matters, such as Biden's health.

Sources inside London's Whitehall have confirmed that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is ready to sign off military reprisals against the Houthis, who have repeatedly attacked merchant shipping in the Red Sea.

If a coalition attack is launched overnight Thursday, it would come seven days after the Western allies sounded their 'final warning' to the rebel group.

Comment: The Houthis have only targeted Israeli ships, or those taking goods to Israel, and it's notable, considering Israel's exposure as a genocidal regime at the ICJ today, that the US & UK have chosen the same day to attack: Global South, Pakistan, Turkey, UAE, amongst those backing South Africa's ICJ genocide case against Israel

The rebels say their assaults are aimed at stopping Israel's war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. But their targets are increasingly random, raising the risk of a US retaliatory strike on Yemen.

The US has set up a multinational naval task force to protect shipping from the attacks, which Blinken on Wednesday said were 'aided and abetted' by Iran.

So far, the Biden administration has not been too forceful in their resolutions in a bid to avoid an all-out war in the fraught region, security officials said previously.

Pentagon spokesperson Brig Gen Pat Ryder said at a news conference in Washington DC: 'I'm not going to telegraph, forecast or speculate on any potential future operations.

'And I think that statement from multiple nations when it comes to the fact that there will be consequences - should the attacks not stop - speaks for itself.

'And I'll just leave it at that.'

Comment: Immediately after the first US threat, the Houthis launched an attack.

Asked about potential US strikes against the Houthis in Yemen, the national security spokesperson, John Kirby, said: 'I'm not going to telegraph our punches one way or another here.

'We're gonna do what we have to do, to counter and defeat these threats that the Houthis keep throwing up on commercial shipping in the Red Sea.'

On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution on demanding an immediate end to the Houthi attacks.

Secretary of State Blinken was in Bahrain on Wednesday as part of his week-long tour aimed at working on the Middle East crisis.

In the UK, Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said on Thursday: 'Be in no doubt at all, Iran is guiding what is happening there in the Red Sea, providing them not just with equipment to carry out those attacks but also often with the eyes and ears to allow those attacks to happen.

Comment: That's what the US and UK are doing in Ukraine. However, unlike the Kiev junta, the Houthis can legitimately claim to be capable in their military abilities, after they forced the US-Saudi coalition to cede defeat in their years-long war on Yemen; a war in which the West created - what the UN called - 'the world's worst humanitarian catastrophe'.

'We must be clear with the Houthis, that this has to stop and that is my simple message to them today, and watch this space.'

In response to the growing tensions, the leader of Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels threatened on Thursday the United States and Britain with even larger attacks in the Red Sea after their navies intercepted a major one.

'Any American aggression will never go without a response,' rebel leader Abdulmalik al-Huthi said in speech broadcast live by the Houthi's Al-Masirah television.

'The response to any American attack will not only be at the level of the operation that was recently carried out... but it will be greater than that.'

The rebels said Tuesday's attack was in retaliation for the US Navy's killing of 10 Houthi fighters on December 31 as they attempted to board a merchant vessel passing through the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen.

Houthi fighters overthrew the Yemeni government in 2014 - which led Saudi Arabia to mount a military campaign against the rebels.

But the October 7 attacks on Israel have spurred them to start attacking Israeli, UK and US ships within the fraught Middle Eastern waters.

Comment: The US & UK chose to get involved, both by sending ships to the area, and in their direct support for Israel's genocide.

The UN Security Council on Wednesday adopted a resolution that demanded the Houthis 'immediately cease' their attacks.

Comment: For insight into the UN resolution, see the tweet in the comments below.

The Houthi campaign, which the rebels say only targets vessels linked to Israel or its allies, has caused major disruption with many shipping firms opting for a much longer route around the tip of Africa for security concerns.

Washington says more than 20 nations have joined the US-led Operation Prosperity Guardian to protect the vital sea lane which usually carries about 12 percent of maritime trade.

Comment: The US has had to pressure a number of those countries into sending support, some have sent a few ships, others sent just a few officers; Spain refused to participate at all, and the US is threatening them with an ultimatum: US pressures Spain to 'rectify its decision' and join anti-Yemen alliance

The Houthi leader said that 'there is no problem for the Europeans, China and the whole world to pass through the Red Sea.'

'The only and exclusive target are ships linked to Israel.'

But he added that any government that joins the military action against the rebels' naval forces would face reprisals.

'Whoever wants to get involved, attack our dear people and target the naval forces is actually risking their fleet and commercial ships,' Houthi warned.

Comment: One gets the impression that some factions of the establishment know the disruption this will cause, but they're willing to sacrifice their people to further a 'higher agenda'. Moreover, it seems that part of that agenda is actually to hasten a collapse of global trade - because if they can't rule the world, no one can continue living in it: UK food shortages 'alarmingly likely' next year, University of Belfast warns - malnutrition cases tripled in 10 years

'We hope that the rest of the Arab and Islamic countries will never get involved with the Americans, the Israelis and the British.'

Vessels passing Yemen have come under frequent assault from Houthi rebels since Israel launched its offensive in Gaza following the October 7 terror attack by the Hamas group.

Shipping companies have responded by rerouting their vessels around South Africa to avoid the risk posed in the strait at a cost of $1,020,020 per boat.