Grant Shapps
Grant ShappsREUTERS/Hollie Adams

Britain on Thursday announced that it was sending one of its most advanced naval vessels to the Gulf to shore up its presence in the region, AFP reported.

The HMS Diamond, a Type 45 destroyer, will conduct operations to ensure freedom of navigation, reassure merchant vessels and ensure the safe flow of trade, the defense ministry said.

"It is critical that the UK bolsters our presence in the region, to keep Britain and our interests safe from a more volatile and contested world," said Defense Secretary Grant Shapps.

The deployment follows the outbreak of conflict between Israel and Hamas and the seizure of an Israeli-linked cargo vessel by Iranian-backed Yemeni Houthis in the Red Sea on November 19.

The British defense ministry said around 50 large merchant ships each day pass through the Bab-el-Mandeb, connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, while around 115 major merchant ships pass through the Strait of Hormuz.

The waters of the Gulf, it said, are vital routes for merchant shipping, including for tankers carrying much of the UK's supply of liquefied natural gas.

"Today’s deployment will strengthen the Royal Navy's patrols, help to keep critical trade routes open and prove that our commitment to regional security not only endures but enhances," Shapps said.

The British government has expressed support for Israel in its war against Hamas. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited Israel last month in a show of solidarity following the Hamas massacre of October 7.

During the visit, Sunak met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and said, "We absolutely support Israel's right to defend itself, to go after Hamas, and to return its hostages."

Shapps recently toldSky News that asking Israel to reach a ceasefire with Hamas is "untenable", adding Israel has "a right" to "go after" Hamas after its terrorists killed more than 1,400 on October 7 and abducted over 220 others.

Speaking to the same network a few weeks later, he backed Israel in its ongoing offensive in the Gaza Strip and expressed opposition to a ceasefire.