Grant Shapps
Grant ShappsREUTERS/Hollie Adams

Britain is reportedly considering air strikes on Yemen’s Houthi rebels, after the US said its navy sank three boats that had been targeting a container ship in the Red Sea, The Guardian reported on Sunday.

British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said the government would not hesitate to take “direct action” to prevent further attacks amid reports the UK and US are preparing a joint statement to issue a final warning to the group.

Writing in The Telegraph, Shapps said the UK “won’t hesitate to take further action to deter threats to freedom of navigation in the Red Sea”.

“The Houthis should be under no misunderstanding: we are committed to holding malign actors accountable for unlawful seizures and attacks,” he added.

Shapps condemned what he described as an “outrageous” bid to disrupt global trade.

The comments come after the US military said four boats from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen fired at the Maersk Hangzhou and came within meters of the vessel as US helicopters fired back.

Several crews on the armed Houthi boats were killed, the US Central Command said. No one was injured on the ship.

Sunday’s incident occurred came hours the USS Gravely missile destroyer shot down two anti-ship ballistic missiles while responding to a Houthi attack on a merchant vessel.

The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have upped their attacks on vessels in the Red Sea since the start of the Israel-Hamas was on October 7.

Recently, the Houthi rebels threatened to attack any vessels heading to Israeli ports unless food and medicine were allowed into the Gaza Strip.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last week officially announced the creation of Operation Prosperity Guardian, a maritime task force set up by the US and allies to respond to the Houthi provocations. Britain is one of the countries taking part in the coalition.